I’m going to just come right out and say it. The crotch of my winter running pants is, well, kind of crusty. That, and the nail on my left big toe has been unhappy for quite some time, since my first half-marathon last spring, in fact, and will be leaving me very soon. It’s really had enough of this shit.
But I haven’t. I am legitimately gung-ho. A few nights ago I ran during an epic autumn downpour. I was wearing very fast looking clear glasses, designed for bike racing. I was not going very fast, but I was going hard. I’m sure I looked like a big nerd. I battled my way down and then back up Milwaukee Avenue, dodging construction, pot holes, drunks, the whole bit. I repeatedly told myself don’t step in the puddles, you don’t know how deep they are. I was simultaneously thinking what am I doing? Why is this important to me?
The truth is that I was doing one run in what I aim to be a streak through the new year. I have to run at least one mile every day to achieve my goal. I’m about a week in and I’ve already figured a few things out. First, this is not a good way to train for a race. I happen to have a half-marathon coming up in March, but will be incorporating real rest days into my life as that gets closer. Rest days are important.
So why am I doing this? The boring answer is that I need a physical goal to prevent my winter existence from becoming a horrible, slow wreck of sunless days and too much beer and sitting around, watching Netflix in the dark. In my heart, my more elevated ambition is to incorporate some measure of perfection into my relationship with something, in this case, running. That would make me feel very good, and I like feeling good, particularly if I can feel good during the nadir of my 29th Chicago winter.
What are you doing to feel good during the nadir of another Chicago winter?
Almost a year ago I sat down and wrote an essay about my relationship with running in which I was really rather hard on myself. When I read it now, I can tell that it was winter, and I can also tell that I wasn’t feeling great about my circumstances. I wrote that I had a hard time sticking with things, and insinuated that I had a lack of follow-through which terrified me into high-tailing it wherever my little feet would take me.
I wasn’t looking carefully enough at my own life. A year later I realize that there are actually things I’ve been committed to so completely that I take them entirely for granted. I’m committed to running, to photography, and to writing about them both. My devotion to each of these pursuits, while imperfect, has been utterly intrinsic to my being since adolescence. For sixteen years I’ve been able to call myself a runner. Sometimes a fallen one, but I’ve always gotten back on the road.