Nearly every time I set my feet to the pavement, laced up with old beat up Saucony's, I experience some sort of battle. The first one is usually against my body, begging me to let it stay home, or telling me it is too tired today and that knitting on the couch, or even just washing dishes would be better.
There are plenty of days though, when the body is not having a pity party, and sometimes it is those days that I battle the elements. Recently, the elements consists of frigid temperatures, the kind that make tears run wildly and without control down my cheeks, making me think of men on the Endurance who battled the same phenomenon, but nearly lost their noses because of it. I am nowhere near that kind of predicament. But the cold does make movement slower and stiffer, and the wind biting and pushing me like a schoolyard bully as I battle the hills can feel relentless.
But to be completely honest, neither of those is the greatest challenge I face as I head out morning after morning. The body may give fits and starts but after years of knowing the joy of the run, the adrenaline, and the winded feeling of satisfaction that follows, those fits have become easier to ignore. And the elements, though challenging, present their own kind of vigor too. I know that once the legs start pumping and the blood starts moving, I am like an oven on wheels, chugging heat up and down the windswept boardwalk and frozen concrete slabs that are my winter landscape. And I have come to love the feel of the cold air filling my lungs, numbing my cheeks. It invigorates me in a way that a sweltering, blazing sun on my neck never will.
Instead, the battles I fight are merely about placing one foot in front of the other. They say that distance running is mostly a mental game. And distance, in my book, is any distance at all. It may have grown over time, to mean longer periods of time or stretches of road, but it has nearly always been a battle. And perhaps because of my nature or the introspective tendency of my thinking, I generally always find myself laying my entire life and character on the line, when the question of stopping bares it's weak and ugly head. If you can't make it to the top of this hill, which is only a matter of muscles and lungs burning and a few slim minutes of your life, how will you ever...? If you stop before you reach the end of this measly little road, how will you ever expect to have the fortitude to make it through______? And when I've stopped, or given up, it's disheartened me in places a run shouldn't really be able to reach to. But then again, it has made me want to stop stopping.
This past weekend I ran the longest distance I have ever run to date. It wasn't that far. It wasn't a marathon or anything. But it was two miles further than I have ever gone. And with each additional step, I felt a singing coursing through my every tired muscle and aching knee. There have been countless times when I have given up. So, it just may be that this running thing in my particular frame is seeing improvement at a very, very slow pace. But improvement is happening, some of it even taking years to see. I would like to think that the carryover is true in other areas as well. So that when I have a transcendental crisis because I can't make it over that last crest, I can rejoice in the victories too when I finally make it without giving up.