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Fickle

We Have Miles to Go

When a writer, former runner, eating disorder survivor, and tiny bit insane person decides to train for a 25K.

Fickle

Kathleen Tarrant

It has been a month since I've written. 

Have I run?

You bet. 

I've run up Rattlesnake Ridge in the rain, Jones' paws getting muddy, my own shoes squeaking with water. I've run Margaret's Way on Squak, and across the way on Tiger, sidestepping pits of mud and feeling alive and strong, my legs turning into knots of muscles. I've run the Discovery Park loop, groups of more advanced runners overtaking Sarah and I as we plodded along at 12 minute miles, laughing and gasping and stopping to stare out at the Sound. 

I've run around my neighborhood, all the 2.1 million dollar houses whizzing past me, the folk band recording a takeaway video in Kerry Park mercifully fading into the distance. (Not that I don't like folk music, but the one shot takeaways with the Space Needle are getting a little ridiculous.)

But I've had off weeks. Weeks, like this one, where I've only gotten it up to run once. When the blustery weather and a night out and my own stubborn inability to stop smoking turn my running shoes into beasts staring me down. Their laces lay lax, the crust of mud dried into a cracked gray skin they desperately want to shed. 

I wrote last time about learning to run with my failures. I've been doing that. But failures feel past tense, like little burrs hanging off your shoes. What looms now, what chases me when I run, is my failure to try. The possibility of not being good enough. For anything.

I hate that about myself. I can go all in, and then so easily give up. When it gets hard, when it gets too real, when my fantasies don't play out the way I want them to. When I feel my lungs burn, and when I feel my belly shake as I work up a hill. When I stare in the mirror and convince myself I'm not running to lose weight, but still feel a sinking pit when my soft thighs brush together. 

Running has become less of an escape, and more of a mirror into my darkest corners. My longing for a quick fix. When I run an 11 minute mile, shaving 3 minutes off my 2.5 mile run time, and I expect things to suddenly feel right. Like I'll suddenly feel like a real runner, or at least an adult who has her life a tiny bit figured out.

But an 11 minute mile delivers me to my apartment, with laundry yet to be done, deadlines looming, a pack of cigarettes on the counter that I swore I wouldn't buy. It does not curb the nightmares where I revisit old wounds and poke them until they bleed, until I yell out in my sleep and wake my partner. An 11 minute mile through some of the prettiest country I've ever set foot in inevitably winds up with me in a hot shower, legs burning, stomach still round, my heart still broken from years of living. An 11 minute mile pushes me into pain. And pain often begets pain before it leads to healing. 

The last run I did, on Monday, I was planning on going to Carkeek Park. I couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead I laced up and set out along the road that overlooks a harbor. Jones was literally dragging behind me. He was not into it this morning. I wasn't either. Around a mile and a half I stopped and started crying. The pain of running uphill unlocked the real beast. Not the beast of "you should go running," but the beast of "you have a lot of work to do, and until you stop running away from it and start running head on toward it you won't see this thing through." 

I rarely see things through. And when you run against the gravitational pull of the work you've started and have yet to finish, you get tired. You sleep. You drink a bottle of wine and close your computer and shut your eyes. 

Maybe I'm not fickle, then. Maybe I'm a runner. But I'm not going to be a runner who sprints away. Instead I'm making a slow about-face, staring at my shoes as friends rather than enemies, and I'm going to run my burning 11 minute mile into the beast's mouth. The nightmares may still come, but my legs are getting stronger. That has to count for something.