I first met met her the last year of college. My college roommate introduced me to her. It was spring and I was feeling anxious about the uncertain future. I was also feeling crappy about how my vegetarian (aka cheese and bread)diet and college lethargy allowed me to gained 20 pounds in 4 years.
It was a spring morning and we met on the track. At first, I didn't like her at all. I kind of hated her, really. She made me mad. She made me tired. She made me doubt myself. She even made me feel embarrassed. Why did my college roommate want to introduce her to me? Why would she be so mean, I wondered. It wasn't until months, and years, later, as our relationship developed, deepened, and flourished, that I began to thank my roommate for this gift. Over time, we have fallen in love. It's a love story really, one that, I hope, will stand the test of time. It's love that has grown through pain, through change, through time and age and space and reality. It's a love story certainly, about co-dependency and maybe obsession. Maybe a little Single White Female. Maybe a little Marky Mark Fear, maybe a little Boy Next Door. And I'm not J Lo.
This is not my bi-sexual coming out story. This is my love story with myself. My running self. When I started running that final semester of college, I was not a runner. I wasn't an athlete. I just knew I wanted to lose weight and I felt bad and scared about everything. I've written a post before about how running has been a constant in my life. Since that day in 2000, I've never stopped running. My intensity level has ebbed and flowed, but I've always put on a pair of sneakers and hit the pavement, even if just for a mile. That love for running, and my identity as a runner, has been there for a long time through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Flash forward to 2011, when my cousin, who was recovering from surgery, called me. She was groggy and in a fog and what could I say when she asked me to run a 1/2 marathon with her. I had no choice but to say yes and so began the next phase in my relationship with my running self. I have to say that, during those months of training, I never would have called myself a runner. I was slow and tired. Yet, as I calculated the miles each week, I became proud. Me and my running self started spending hours together, accumulating miles. She knew my fears. She knew my self doubts. She knew what I could do when I didn't know I could do. After that first 1/2 marathon, we really fell in love. Then, last fall, we fell hard. I said I'd never run another 1/2 marathon and I did. I felt like I was on happy drugs after that race. I was a starry-eyed, giggling teenager about my running self. Suddenly she went from being cute to being hot. I wanted to see more of her. I had to see more of her.
Last winter may have been cold but no polar vortex was going to stop the heat between me and my running self. We became obsessed with one another. When I wasn't with her, I was thinking about her. We made friends together, taking our relationship from private to social. When people saw us out together- me and my running self, I was like, "Aww yeah, take that! I bet you wish you had a girl like this!" Not only did we spend hours together each week, we took trips together. I spent money on her. I wanted to take care of her. This was a committed relationship. She made me feel strong, and powerful, and attractive, and younger. She has transformed me. I was officially addicted to her.
We had the best year together! Sigh. Sometimes, at night, I like to think about her. She makes me smile. I close my eyes and think about that time, oh it was soo funny. That time that I was running that race with her and...oh never mind. You wouldn't understand. It's a private joke.
Then, something deeply, deeply terrible has happened. I haven't seen my running self in weeks. We had just finished this 15k together and had a PR. We were proud, but agreed that we were tired. Then, we woke up the next day, and we had this terrible awful, no good,cough and cold. We tried to get together, with our other running buddies, but something was wrong. We couldn't keep up. We were both sad, but we were going to hold out. We tried a few long runs, but the magic wasn't there. We told each other to take a week off. God, I missed her like crazy. I had tightness in my chest. I felt anxiety. I was cranky. I could feel myself weakening, doubting.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, I told myself. Then, I coughed really hard one day and pulled something in my back. I fell on the floor and cried. I cried because it really frigging hurt and because I knew what I had to do. I had to tell my running self that we needed a break. I had to tell her. I had to say, "I can't do this right now. You're hurting me. I need space. I have to see other activities. I'm not healthy right now." Oh, I'm starting to tear up thinking about this! So, we're on a break. I'm miserable without her. I'm missing the friends we have as a couple. Nobody wants to hang with just me. They want us together. I get angry when I see other people with their running selves. I'm bitter. How did this happen to us, and so fast? One minute, you're running down lovers lane, and the next you're taking senior aquajogging classes and your sneakers haven't seen the light of day in weeks.
I'm sliding into depression. I'm so lonely without her. I hear a song on the radio and I think about how we listened to that song together (Wild horses? You remember that scene from Fear? )Running blogs fill my facebook feed and I think about reading articles together about the ten best exercises for runners, or what foods to eat before a big race. Those were the best of times. I didn't realize how much I'd miss her. Maybe we've been too obsessed and this break is the best thing for us. There's a saying, if you love someone, set her free. If she loves you, she'll come back to you. She's waiting for me. I know she misses me, too, and she wants me back. It's just going to take some time. Each night, after I put the kids to bed, I tidy up the house a bit. As I organize all of the shoes (why can't people put their shoes side-by-side like I ask), I see my sneakers sitting there and I think of her. I smile. Come spring, we'll be together again. I know it. I know it. I know it.