Today I stopped

I never set out with the thought that I might have to stop, but sometimes I just have to stop.

I never wind up doing it, but I’ve always thought it would be a good idea to write down my thoughts and ideas as they come to me so I could write an essay, or maybe even a book, titled something like “Life Imitates Running” or “Running Imitates Life” or “Never Trust a Fart While Running.”

Of course, I usually can’t write down these thoughts or ideas when they come to me because I’m usually out somewhere on a run. I don’t carry a pen and paper with me, nor do I carry a phone. So these thoughts rattle around in my head and I’m hard-pressed to remember them whenever I get home after I’m done running. Whenever I do get home from a run other things take priority over writing down my thoughts and ideas that I’ve had while I’m out there. Things like showering and shoving calories into my mouth.

This morning there was an occurrence while out on my run. Not thoughts or ideas. Today I stopped. According to my training plan, I’ve been training hard since September 5, 2022. I’ve been training for a race series that I’m hell-bent on winning. And my training for this race series overlaps with my training for the Boston Marathon on April 17th. I’m self-coached and I’ll often find myself riding this fine line of injuring myself or over-training. I’ll also very often find myself teetering on the edge of stripping away the happiness and mental health benefits that running gives to me. It’s a love and a dance that I try to hold in some modicum of infancy which, I’ve learned, has to be nurtured as such.

The girls and I were out of town this past weekend for a lacrosse tournament. After the games were over on Saturday, I walked to the hospital that was next to our hotel and I ran 1.25-mile loops around the campus. I ran those loops hard to practice running fast for my upcoming half marathon and then dialed back the pace for a few loops to practice maintaining a pace and cadence for Boston. We came back to Austin on Sunday and headed downtown to go on a long run to practice running on tired legs.

Training catches up to me. Yesterday I was tired and while I can find any excuse under the sun to go for a run, I just wasn’t feeling it yesterday. So I didn’t run. I didn’t go on my easy recovery run because I just didn’t want to. A coach once told me that “no run matters.” Those three words are very philosophical in their simplicity. Replace the word “run” with many other things and that’s why I think running imitates life.

It’s been raining and the temperatures crept to below-freezing last night. Central Texas shuts down whenever there’s ice. The schools shut down whenever there’s ice. The city of Austin is pretty much shut down right now. It was cold, dark, and quiet when I set out this morning on my tempo run. I could feel it when I was only a quarter mile from the house that this morning’s run was going to be a struggle. It’s just one of those things where when you know it, you just know it. But I kept lifting my knees and decided that I’d just see what happens.

I think it just took some time for my brain and body to warm up. And it was eerily quiet outside in the otherwise noisy suburbs in which we live. I knew what I was supposed to do on this morning’s run, so I went after it. I finally settled into a groove after a mile and I pushed myself because I’m training for something. You train so you can adapt your mind and body, become acclimated, and teach yourself to do hard things.

A little after mile three I just stopped. I stopped running. My head wasn’t where I wanted it to be. My toes hurt. My hamstrings hurt. I was cold and hot at the same time. It was hard for me to breathe. So I stopped. The first thought that invariably pops into my head whenever I stop is that I lost. I’ve always maintained this tough guy runner mantra of “you can let it slow you down, but don’t let it stop you.” That’s usually what I tell myself whenever I come upon a hill. So if I ever stop, I feel like I’ve failed. The obstacle, whatever it might be, beat me.

A running coach that I admire recently wrote that it’s okay to stop. Mid-workout. Mid-hill. Mid-tempo. Mid-long run. If you need to stop, then just stop. You don’t have to quit. It’s okay to stop. To stop during a run is to catch your breath. Let your heartbeat come to its resting state. Let your brain take a rest. Recenter yourself. And I’ve learned that it doesn’t take long at all to reset. Often times no more than 30 or 60 seconds. And then you go again. You just keep going.

And a third coach that I admire recently wrote “stop trying to make it happen and just let it happen instead.”

I stopped on a run today to reset and recenter. I’ve done it before and I’m sure I’ll do it again. I never set out with the thought that I might have to stop, but sometimes it just has to happen that way.

No run matters. It’s okay to stop. Stop trying to make it happen and just let it happen instead. Life imitates running.

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