When I first started running again, I think the only way to describe it was angry. I can see myself (the funny thing people take for granted about being self-conscious is that you can picture yourself from angles you’ve never actually seen, like an image of yourself swimming taken from a helicopter hover behind or head) – taking corners at full stride, grinding and heaving. It was about pushing myself so hard that I’d hurt afterward and if I didn’t I’d feel restless and lazy. I’d think about as much as I could and come home and drip sweat all over a legal pad trying to get it down before I lost it.
But now it’s transitioned to something different. I often do the same courses as before but they’re relaxing, steady and peaceful. A rhythm. I can still do 3 miles in 21 minutes (8, 7, 6mm) but it’s not some perversely enjoyed punishment any longer. When I don’t bring an ipod, I’ll return to realize that I spent 40 minutes without a thought. If I do it in the morning, around midnight, I’ll feel like going again. Or I’ll head down and jump rope until I get back into the flow.
The thing, I think, about running like that, or doing anything manically for that matter is that it’s a mask for a search for purpose. As you start to get closer to finding a reason, things slow down. I didn’t find what I was looking for hacking and beating away at the air. It was when I dialed that things started to shift. Instead of trying to get ‘back to where it used to be’ – an allure that is so tempting because it feels right – the idea is to move on to the next thing. To find where you’re flailing wildly elsewhere and approach it with maturity and dispassion.