May. Where to begin? In keeping with the season, I liken this month to the moments after a heavy thunderstorm – the birds slowly resuming their chirps, the sun guardedly peeking out through the clouds again, the scent of rain in the fresh air.
On the first day of the month I ran a marathon, making the start of May simultaneous with the end of a long, somewhat gritty, but mostly just long, journey.
And then I spent the next 30 days in recovery mode. The crippling quad soreness and lingering exhaustion that typically mark the days after 26.2 were surprisingly mild and short-lived, and after a week off, I gently eased back into running with a steady diet of short and even-paced runs, never exceeding 60 minutes.
But physical recovery wasn’t even the half of it.
I struggle to put into words what the last 30 days have meant to me, and the changes that have occurred in my heart and my head. When I crossed that finish line in Pittsburgh, it was like I could breathe again. When the clock struck May 1, suddenly 26.2 miles of running was the only thing standing in between me and a life I missed dearly. I had my head so buried in marathon training for so many months that I let a TON of living pass me by. It feels like getting out of a really bad relationship only to realize that somewhere along the way, you had become so invested in that other person that you totally forgot who you were.
It’s been a while since there was something I wanted so badly to put behind me. I really don’t know why – it was a good and successful training cycle and I enjoyed a lot of it. I guess after 3 years of robotic training and mindlessly pushing to get “faster”, I just desperately needed out. I guess some subconscious part of me finally drew a hard line in the sand and said, it’s enough already.
In the 4 weeks since the marathon has passed, I can’t recall a single second of post-race blues. I worried that I would feel unfulfilled and empty without training in my life, but my zest for life and sense of contentment have never been stronger.
So what have I been up to this month?
I completed my first ever blog series, “MinimalisMay”. The 8 posts I wrote this month, on topics ranging from cleaning out my wardrobe to contemplating my social media usage to making the bed in the morning, documented my first baby steps on my journey to live a more minimalist lifestyle. It has been really fun and fulfilling so far, both to do and to write about, and I can’t wait to dive into it more.
I started practicing yoga. I’ve gone to more yoga in the past 10 days than I have in the past 3 years, and, despite being inflexible and undoubtedly awkward-looking, I am enjoying it so far and looking forward to deepening my practice. I plan to keep going 1-2 times a week.
I got my bike out finally and we also went on our first little hike. Although I’ve only done each of the “ikings” once so far, I can already tell I’ve been bitten by the bug (so to speak). I hope riding will become as big a staple in my weekly fitness routine as yoga is becoming, and that day hikes will become a fixture of our summer.
We joined a community garden. Updates (and, hopefully, plants) to come.
I started a tidy marathon, my first big step toward my dream of a clutter-free life.
I’ve been enjoying an increase in energy and focus at my job and in my extra-curricular activities. I wouldn’t say that I got this HUGE BURST of energy or anything, but there is a very noticeable (albeit subtle) difference in the way I feel at work most days, and at home. It’s like the air is a little fresher and my mind is a little clearer and I just feel ever-so-slightly more present.
And, yes, I have been running. I am up to running about 3 days a week now – scheduling and other fitness endeavors prevented me from reaching my goal of 4 times a week by month’s end, but that’s okay. I have switched to running by time only and not tracking my distance or pace. I only run a little bit at a time (30-50 minutes on weekdays and up to 60 for “long runs”), and I am undergoing a “running renaissance” (thanks for the term, Pippa!) of sorts. I enjoy running a lot more now. Because I run when I want to, and my runs are short and sweet and I don’t worry about pace, it doesn’t feel like a chore anymore. I now look forward to running much more, and feel great doing it. So far, I have done a couple tracked runs (one easy and one moderate/tempo, with no peeking until the end) just to see where I’m at. Both of them actually exceeded my expectations and, most importantly, I couldn’t help noticing that I’d improved at pacing myself too. Even after only a few weeks of practice, I am better at tuning into my body’s signals and finding a natural rhythm. So, by ditching pace these last few weeks, I actually got better at pacing. Who knew?
But…I feel differently about so many things now. There are parts of the running world that used to be front and center for me and now I struggle to relate to; things I used to value that I now just can’t understand. Why are we all so obsessed with being “fast”? Why do we care so much about our finish times? Why are we so willing to turn our lives inside out just to shave a few minutes off our PRs?
This stuff used to matter to me. More than I care to admit. But I clung to it, because running had given my life so much direction and I was scared that without having a goal to train for, I’d feel aimless and invisible again. But now all of it feels so…hollow. I missed my old life. Somehow I’d forgotten how much happiness I could find in other things – like writing, and nature, and being creative (or at least trying!), and occasionally just sitting around doing nothing at all. Yes, you read that right – DOING NOTHING. Oh, the scandal!
I think this is a roundabout way of saying that for the time being, I am just so so so so over long distance running, you guys. I am so done running gobs and gobs of miles every week. I can’t even bear to think about running 13.1 or 26.2, let alone do it. Just no. So much no. I start 10K training in just under 2 months now, and while I am actually really excited for it, that’s seriously about all I can handle for right now.
So, May was a good, happy month for me. It wasn’t perfect and I had my share of bad days and mood swings just like every other person on the planet. But I feel like I have my life back again. I’ve really, really enjoyed having more free time and energy and not training, and I’m not going to be parting with this lifestyle any time soon. I’m really looking forward to continuing on this way through the summer and then easing back into a training schedule in August that is new, fun and fresh.
Here’s to June and the unofficial beginning of summer!