The rain is pouring down, and I have one mile left. My friend is on the bike next to me, shouting words of encouragement and kicking up the puddles in his tracks. I am lifting my knees up, and my arms are chugging. It’s just a training run, and it’s just the summer. But right now, anything is possible.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I am going to run.”
“Yeah, but like, aside from that?”
“I don’t know. Read.”
It seems as if most adults lack any form of awareness that professional running is a viable option for athletes. Normally I will hear a follow up along the lines of, ‘Like, Olympics and stuff?’ In which turn, I affirm yes and add a subtle ‘hopefully.’ Returning home and being back in my natural habitat took a couple weeks of adjustment. At first, I was saddened by the disappearance of my childhood friends who have all moved into the city to tackle the world on a new level called, “real life.” Meanwhile, I am back having Mom make home cooked meals and enjoying the luxury of a fully stocked pantry. This is far from a permanent settlement, but I am currently in an awkward phase of limbo, and so this is a comforting place to be. Sometime soon I will move back into [most likely] the city when my self-proclaimed summer vacation is over.
When my season came to an abrupt end this past spring, I felt more relieved than I was upset. For months things hadn’t been going my way, and I was frustrated with my body. Mentally, I was burnt out. All fun had been zapped from the game, and I was at peace with having to take some time off to regroup. Upon finishing, I knew I had to get away. I weighed my options between traveling around Asia, or getting in my car and seeing the country and visiting friends. Financially, the latter won out, and I spent the next two weeks and 7.000 miles on the road, seeing incredible things, making memories, and most importantly, having time away from the sport. I ended up taking three much needed weeks off from running, to allow my body and mind to fully heal.
I have just begun my fourth week of training, and to say that I am being conservative would be an understatement. I get a phone call from Gags just about every other day checking in on me, and his only concern ever is if I am feeling healthy. As a close friend of mine always preaches, ‘the goal of an athlete should only ever be to be, stay or get healthy.” I started by running 20 minutes a day, and over 3 weeks later I am up to 35 minutes a day. My new stretching and strengthening routine (http://www.whartonhealth.com/flexibility-strength-dvd) has become a daily ritual. Each day is surrounded with infinite time to do everything I need to do to be successful, as I cautiously build my mileage back to normal levels. Luckily my mother works at a bookstore and can fulfill my voracious reading habits, because recovery has been key for me this summer and there’s a lot of sitting around.
My gleeful return to New York has reminded me of the importance in balancing sport and life. It’s been a relief to set myself in place with friends and family who share no concern for running. I have high school friends still making fun of my shorts and who are confused about why I shave my legs. And that’s nice to hear, because it puts things into perspective, which is essential when I am watching European escapades from afar. Now that I am back training in some capacity and seeing the recent success of US distance running, it has been a source of inspiration, and I am hungry again.
But motivation has come from other directions as well. Last week a few friends and I met up for a short jaunt around the local state park. I don’t know why I had never explored this place further when I was younger, but it is filled with trails. One of my buddies brought his little brother who was going to tag along. We got talking about his training, and what his plans were for the summer. The more and more we talked, or rather, that I asked, I realized—this kid has no clue what he’s doing. I asked him what he wanted to accomplish this fall, and what some of his long-term goals were. He was light on his feet, and a fluent stride. I thought surely he’d tell me about his plans for states, or to qualify for nationals. But he was just out running and trying to keep up with his big brother, having some fun and trying to get faster. And that’s exactly what I was doing out there. So as the summer miles pile up, I’m reminded to allow my mind to wander and dream, because right now, anything is possible.