So I was reminded a few days ago about the first time I ran just because I wanted (needed?) to run; before I consciously went out running for the “first time” almost 21 years ago; before I found myself struggling through Central Park for three and a half miles as a member of my company’s Corporate Challenge team a year prior to that. I believe it was Memorial Day weekend 1992. And I honestly had the memory tucked so far back in my mind that I hadn’t recalled it until Friday. It was the first time I saw running as a means to relieve stress.
My stressors right now involve establishing my business and a whole bunch of parenting stuff (which out of respect for my daughter’s confidentiality and trust she places in me will not be detailed here). So I decided to take the morning off on Friday to get my head back in a better place. The sun was shining and the outdoor thermometer was already exceeding 70. I had access to a convertible. Can we ignore for a moment that climate change is real and a day like that in February is just not right? Just enjoy the moment since it’s upon us?
I was just gonna go for a little drive and the next thing I knew I was steering in the direction of “Shore Points”. I had dressed in my running clothes as soon as I got up that morning and I was very conscious of the speed work on my training schedule that I was now missing or putting off. I thought, “is there someplace I could go to run?” I decided on the Point Pleasant Beach boardwalk. As I was driving the temperature climbed to 78 and I was thinking I would be over dressed in tights and long sleeve technical shirt, but it was cooler at the beach. I parked my car on Ocean Avenue (for free); something you can’t do in the summer. I walked over to the Boardwalk and started in front of Martel’s Tiki Bar and headed north. I ran to the end at Manasquan Inlet and back as my warm-up, then started the speed session when I got back to Martel’s heading south this time (the workout was 400 x 6 with a 60 second rest; without the benefit of a track, I used my Garmin watch to gauge the distance).
As soon as I took off on the first 400, the memory came flooding back to me. I was distraught over some issue in a dead-end relationship. I had been with a group of friends at the Tiki Bar and something happened. What? I don’t recall. But, I suddenly remembered vividly on Friday what I did to cope. I was always good at managing my emotions simply by removing myself from the situation or individuals involved. “Walk away” was advice my parents had given me long ago. That day I walked out of Martel’s Tiki Bar. But walking wasn’t going to do it. I spontaneously started to run. As fast as I could. Weaving in and out of the Memorial Day weekend crowds until I got to the end (which on Friday I learned is about a half mile). Then I stood there, barefoot, in shorts and bikini top, hunched over, gasping for breath. As soon as I regained my composure, I turned around and ran full speed back to Martel’s. I managed my anger. I didn’t yell. I didn’t cry. I didn’t strangle someone who probably deserved it. I ran.
As I now recall the event and the timing of it, I realize that a week later I met my late husband. I had amazing clarity around what I wanted in my life so I gave that relationship a chance and walked away from what wasn’t working once and for all. Co-incidence? I think not. As I’ve said before, I do not believe that anyone starts running because they actually like to run. We are all ultimately running away from or running to something. Sometimes it’s a little of both. Running away is often a way to get to exactly where we need to be. And who we want to be.
Me? I want to be a caring parent, a loving partner, a competent coach, a successful business owner. To achieve that, I am also a dedicated runner. What are you running away from? What’s your destination? Who do you need to be to get there?
Winter in New Jersey. Point Pleasant Beach. February 2017.