What I Learned: Running is Cheaper than Therapy

Actually, running is not cheaper than therapy, the shoes, after all, are not covered by insurance, and they alone will flatten your wallet. But, I love the notion. Moreover, I love that the notion is so common–that there are so many of us for whom running IS therapeutic–that the sentiment ended up on a hat. This post was, of course, supposed to be up and complete sometime last week, but it was neither, as it was still trapped in the confines of my head, and I think the ensuing events of the weekend make the delay a good thing, at least in terms of my ability to articulate what I learned while training for my first marathon.

And, yes, I do suspect and intend that it will not be my last. I enjoyed both the process (mostly) and the event (tremendously) so much that I cannot imagine never running another one. Trouble is now, of course, picking one…so many options. Can’t afford all of them, but, hey, nothing wrong with a dream right? Big Sur to Carmel and Vienna, I’m looking at you. The half marathon in my hometown is a heck of a treat to look forward to in the meantime.

So what did I learn in this process and why did I undertake it in the first place? Let’s begin here, then: gratitude. I learned a heck of a lot about gratitude during this adventure.

G., of course, deserves several hat tips for even putting up with me as I figured out what I was doing, which shoes really did work best for me, what caloric intake I needed to prevent the bad attitude from appearing, in addition to the hours I spent off and running on Saturdays. He even moved the “big breakfast” morning to Sundays, so that I could run early (early being something of a requirement in the South) on Saturdays and still be able to share the weekly bacon-fest with the kids on Sundays (the kids also deserve kudos–esp. TG, who has assured me that he’s going to join me on a race next year). And, bless his heart, G. excels at not rolling his eyes at me when I find yet “another run I really, really, really want to do” or wax ecstatic over this running adventure or that one. I suppose the running commentary (har, har) is something of a relief for him from my normal obsessive streaks.

Speaking of which, I do have to thank Duff, Jeff, Geoff, and Mike from Loaded, who not only provided much of my mental soundtrack (since I don’t wear earphones, I rely on whatever my brain is processing. Thank goodness “Sick” came out when it did) during training, and were kind enough to schedule a show in Nashville in honor of my first 15 miler. Okay, so the date of the show and the particular run were simply kismet, but it was a hell of a celebration–at least for me. And Duff, who was on the receiving end of more than one tweet regarding surviving “the big one,” was kind enough to send good mantras and congrats. So, thanks gentlemen.

And while we are on the subject of people who have cheered me on from afar and put up with occasional panicked twittering on the subject, my buddy Mad has been a lifeline of understanding and advice. As ever, Mad, thank you–and I wish we were closer; I’d love to run one with you. Rhyte and DD also cheered from afar, and I am most grateful that DD took the chance to email me back in April. I’m so glad to have met you both. Rhyte–you’ll rock in October, lady. Keep running!

Locally, I have my running buddies (someday we’ll all manage to run together, eh?) J and K, who rock my world and are always way more hopeful about my chances for success than I am. Add to them the tremendous emotional support I got from the office cheering squad–Kelly, Jill, Charles (P.E. profs are so awesome!), Amy, Diane, Chris, Penny, and Sara (who never fails to ask how the morning run went), and the folks from both campuses and from church who followed my progress on race day. Thank you all.

Thank you, too, to the guy who pulled over to make sure I was okay when I fell this weekend, mid-run. I was, or thought I was, but I appreciated your kindness so very much as I dusted my wounded pride and knee. As it turns out, the spill was a bit more significant than I thought at the time. Seems I bruised my ribs, having fallen on the titanium plating that constitutes my right elbow and Humerus. *Sigh* But, I am grateful that this was my first fall–grateful and amazed, given the level of clumsiness that I operate at regularly (see titanium plate mention above. Me and Rollerblades. Terrible combination).

Thank you to the dogs who joined my runs and made me laugh–especially my boy George, who followed me home and stayed. George can also be credited with making me more attentive to my world, which allowed me to see young Agnes in the road; I’m grateful to have such a sweet (usually) young kitten around the house. And, of course, many thanks to the event planners for the Seattle Rock N’ Roll marathon, who did such an incredible job.

To my fellow runners–thank you. The guys who recognized me as a newbie and gave me a pep talk before the run. The woman behind me who actually said that this was her “recovery marathon” (she’d run one the week before)–yeah, call me awestruck. The woman who remarked that “we’re still in fucking Tukwila?” somewhere along the line. The guy who pointed out the bald eagle in Seward Park, and the guy dressed as Dee Snider (so rocked). And, the spectators throughout, who cheered and occasionally brought out the garden hose to cool down those who wished to do so. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this particular tribe of folk for a while.

My final thanks go to the volunteers who staffed the water stations during the marathon. 25,000 runners means that not only do the planners have to do their job in getting everything arranged, but they rely on the kindnesses of volunteers to stand on the roadsides with water and sports drinks and the occasional GU packet–and SCORES of volunteers are needed to make it work. As I ran through Tukwila and Seattle and the more tired I got, the more I looked forward to seeing their smiles (and, yes, the hydration they were about to bestow). It was difficult to remember to look up and say “thank you,” but it also seemed important to do so. I recall thinking about communion services during the run–the sharing of bread and cup–this is exactly what the volunteers were doing. They gave of themselves to help others; they provided sustenance and, in effect, sanctuary for people they did not know and would likely never know. They performed the art of sharing at the table magnificently. I was touched and grateful and delighted to see the action of compassion on the part of volunteers and gratitude on the part of runners. I tried to carry that back to church last week, when I led at the table. Gratitude and compassion as verbs–actions you perform, not just emotions you feel.

For 25,000 runners, there were 25,000 reasons to run. She might of been celebrating her love of the endorphin rush, but the guy beside her in mile 10.5 was celebrating his overcoming of fear. He was running his 125th, and the other guy his first. She was running in honor of her 10 years in remission, while the woman three feet behind her was running in memory of her daughter. Scores of people. Scores of reasons for being there. At least one of us on the course was celebrating 140 days sober, though she couldn’t have given you that day count at the time (and had to look it up a few moments ago to check). Whatever our reason for being–we were there: we celebrated together, shared at the same tables, and yanked ourselves along the same finish.

Why did I run? Well, initially it was just a way to keep sober. I felt awful, angry, undisciplined, and a plethora of other emotions at the time I decided to regain control of my life. I hated that I was unable to learn to be a “good drinker”; at the time, I was perhaps as upset about that as the lack of control. I felt like a failure. I was depressed (the ups and downs have not gone away of course, but they have begun to moderate at this point). The decision to run in a marathon was, perhaps, a desperation move, but it provided a goal and a distraction. Eventually, the practice brought discipline and calm. In the end, it provided excitement–and, as Mad put it, it is damn difficult to think yourself worthless and incapable when you complete 26.2 miles.

I am an addict and that will never change. I can choose to give in to the demonic side of that condition or I can choose to redirect its obsessive energies into a different kind of high (though, Rev. Dean did point out that this too can go overboard–he promises to stage an intervention if I start showing signs of anorexia. He was joking at the time (I think), but I’d rather like to hold him to that–I’ll keep an eye on me, but it sure helps to have friends who are willing to do the same and make note of when my feet are too much in the fire, especially when I’m led astray by my other beautiful disease–my OCD). I am so delighted to have found a way to make my potentially (and often) negative exceptionalism (the OCD) positive. Running is a good thing. Marathons are fabulous.

Even injured, I can see the wonder and excitement, and I look forward to running again (tried this morning. Made it only .5 mile before having to walk the rest). Even a few months ago, I would have castigated myself for the fall and the inability to recover quickly–but, you know what? I’ll get there–it will take time and it will require relying on others on occasion, but I can do that.

I ran 26.2 miles. I can do anything.

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2 responses to “What I Learned: Running is Cheaper than Therapy

  1. "I ran 26.2 miles. I can do anything."

    I KNOW, RIGHT? Being a marathoner got me through the last bit of my exams, got me through the job market, and is by GAWD getting me through this diss.

    I love you. Please let's do the VB half together? Shall I register?

  2. solitary kitsch

    Yes, it will get you through the beast–and I'm rooting for you.

    Definitely, want to join you for VB lady! 🙂 I'm already registered and dragging myself along for it! Yay!!

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