So how do you climb back into your own skin? Slowly, it seems. Very slowly.
For the past five going on six years, I’ve been a runner. As in marathons (three), plus a half marathon (one) plus a seven-mile cross country run (literally through streams and up mud embankments) and 5Ks (three so far), all in the space of about five and a half years. I began sedentary, heavy, uncomfortable, easily winded, and within eight months I was racing 13.1 miles.
Then, during the past six or nine months, it’s all slipped away. Well, I shouldn’t say all. I’ve run two 5Ks this year—one in April and one in July. But training hasn’t been consistent. Weeks at a time go by without my getting out the door on a run; the constancy has gone.
And all of this has happened just in time for my fifty-first year of life. I can’t help feeling that each day that goes by without my exercising is another opportunity I lose. Opportunity for what? I’m not quite sure. Certainly not to recapture my youth. That left a long time and frankly I don’t miss it. But I miss the feel my body had when I was running. The feel inside my skin. The liveliness. That pleasant sensation that was short of an ache, more like an awareness, a dormant energy.
This falling away has something, I think, to do with expectations. In the beginning, moving was enough; getting up and being able to run, to work my muscles, was enough. Being able to push my body and know that it would respond was enough. Races and paces and placements and who I beat and who beat me were only rough guides to measure a vague kind of progress. The training meant as much to me—meant more—than any of that.
So maybe this stagnation is my body trying to remind my will what really matters. Maybe when I finally decide to listen, I’ll be able to lift myself from bed in the predawn darkness and just go. Just run. Again.


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