Addition vs. Integration.

When you first start running, it’s easy to think about it as an accessory. Maybe it’s a must-have for you. It certainly serves a purpose. It may take considerable intention to incorporate. But it’s often an add-on: a thing you do in your “spare” time or squeeze in between other parts of your life.

At least that’s how, looking back now, it must have felt to me. It was something I was doing so I could get in shape and claim an accomplishment (recall, I started running with full marathon training).

But there’s a bit of a problem with this perspective. It misses the impact that running has on the rest of your life—and that the rest of your life has on running.

At some point, I realized that running was a key strategy not only for my physical health but for my mental health too. As long runs built, I could see them as rationale for brunch (and still do 😉), but I also began to understand how what I was eating the day(s) before influenced how I felt during a run. I started hitting the gym because I wanted to build strength, and soon realized that strength improved my running.

As 2017 came to a close and 2018 rang in, life was chaotic: interviewing for a new job, closing out an old one, moving cross country and merging two households. Running (and other physical activity) largely fell by the wayside. Starting back in February, I knew all the benefits for running, but it was still frustrating and daunting. Four miles at a 12-minute/mile pace sucked, mentally and physically. Fitness returned relatively quickly. By the end of April, I dropped a 10K PR. But it the hiatus and initial struggle back reminded me of just how important running and consistency are.

Now we’re training for a 50K. Initially I was a bit laissez-faire, following along with the plan that Gene had drafted. But a switch flipped several weeks ago. This isn’t just something I’m doing. It’s part of my life. I’m reading up on training. I’m setting my schedule around planned workouts (e.g. when do I need to leave work to run 5 miles before yoga at the gym?). I’ve given up wearing high heels at work (again) because my runs are harder when I don’t. I signed us up for a CSA, in part to save time and effort at the grocery store. I procured an Instant Pot in hopes that it might expedite/support food prep, especially at times we’re tired or short on time. Plus we started this blog together, and I set up our companion Twitter account last weekend.

In the beginning, years ago, running was little more than an accessory. Now I see—and embrace—running as a sometimes daunting, often delightful, and definitively integral part of my life and our life together.