I was having a conversation with a fellow coach this past weekend and I realized that I still think I can wake up, hit the trails and run twenty 7-min miles in a row, without a second thought.
Like I used to.
Like I had for so many years.
I forget sometimes that time marches on.
I forget that my body is carrying all those miles.
I forget that I have more than thirty years of running in the bank.
I forget that all the things that happened to my body can add up.
I forget that I'm running on a reconstructed ankle.
I forget that I'm running with lungs scarred from blood clots.
I forget that cancer affected how my body builds muscle.
I forget that I took a long break from training.
I forget that I'm getting older.
I forget that time flies.
It’s clear that I am holding onto the athlete I used to be.
I could choose to stay in that mindset, mourning my former fleet-footed self.
I could choose to accept who I am now and choose to love the athlete I've become.
The choice was clear but was not without a cost.
I needed to grieve; something I haven't allowed myself to do.
It felt unseemly and self-indulgent to pour myself into that mourning.
Finally - cathartically - I gave in and grieved for the runner I used to be.
I had to, you see, in order to break free.
I used to be a gazelle.
Running through the trees and scrub of Central Oregon, my shoes barely touched the trail.
My legs drove relentlessly up mountains.
I can feel the wind rushing into my face, pulled forward by my speed alone.
I can see the trees and ground flashing by, my legs a blur in the forest.
I didn't run as much as I flew.
So, how do I move past this grief?
Every day I choose to remember that I am everything I have always been.
I may not be the same type of runner, but I am still a runner.
I may not be as fast but I am more determined.
I may not be as fit but I am just as strong.
I may not be as effortless but I am more diligent.
I may not be as graceful but I am more aware.
I am a runner at any age, at any speed, at any size, at any distance, at any effort, at any pace.
I am a runner simply because I choose to be.