Saturday is the day. I am going to run the trail half-marathon for the Trail Weekend in Pinckney. It will be my first trail race and my third half-marathon. It will be the first time I have ran a race in two years. I have always wondered if it seems like running matters less to me. I have struggled with calling myself a runner in the last year or so, because I’ve been running for almost six years and have only run a couple of races. I’m not a competitive runner, running more to complete rather than to compete.
Plus, I have been exhausted with telling people, “I’m training for x” only to have it fall through due to injury or even worse in the case of the Air Force Marathon when I had an ovarian cyst rupture only a week before the marathon. Heart-freaking-breaking. I have barely told anybody I have been training for a half. Granted, the life of a graduate student can be kind of solitary: “Hi, Rousseau. Guess what I’m doing when I’m not writing about you and reading you?” But still. I’m too afraid that I’ll jinx it.
Those are the thoughts I have been carrying with me through my training. Not the most positive, but they have crept in. I had a few panicky moments with being sick throughout March and even the other week when my left foot acted up. And guess what: I feel fine and my foot does too. The most bland diet in the world and picking up golf balls with your toes will do that you.
Mostly there have been amazing moments. The routine of running. I mean I love the rhythm of a running schedule. I love seeing the weeks drawn out. I love what it adds to my life. I love checking off the days and seeing the race draw near.
Then, there is the running itself. I do not understand it when people say running long can be boring. I think three mile runs can be boring, never a long run. Miles change you. I believe that. I do not come back the same person I left. I come back more resilient, more thoughtful, and most importantly, more joyful. I think the kind of tired I am when I come back from a long run is one of the best feelings in the world.
Saturday I went on a ten mile run. I was not planning on it. The plan called for a twelve mile run, but with my foot problems, I was not planning on running at all. It felt fine enough that I thought ten would be ok. Bruno and I ran together Saturday afternoon. And it was a hard run. My legs felt tired. But at around mile seven, coming down a hill (of course), I just threw my hands up in the air danced around, looked back at Bruno, and like a total goober yelled, “I am so happy! I just love running!” And then shuffled the last three miles back home.
At first I thought I did not know what to expect for Saturday. Hillsdale does not really have technical trails. I have maybe only ran on real trails a handful of times in my life. The Potowatami Trail is supposed to be hella hilly. I tried to train on as much hills as I could. I am not sure if that will be enough. Even though I went through the full half-training plan, the last couple of weeks has been wonky with being sick. Before that ten on Saturday, I was worried I lost fitness. I can be a real worrier.
Here is what I can expect: I can expect to get my ass kicked in the best way possible. And I know I am going to love every step of it. I know that I will rejoice at just being out there, even if I am going over a gnarly hill. I will think what I thought a couple weeks ago when an ice cold downpour began mid-run, “I love suffering!”* I know that I will see the beauty of the Pinckney parks, which are supposed to be some of the best in Michigan. I know that there is a good chance that when I cross that finish line on Saturday, I will cry. I am tearing up just thinking about it.
I have not taken a single mile I have ran for granted. Every step has been a silent prayer of “thank you.” Running is a joy.
I cannot wait for Saturday.
*To be clear, I love voluntary suffering.