Running Thoughts

The click of the lock, that’s where it begins.

The rest of the world is slightly deafened by my headphones as I walk down the three flights of stairs fidgeting with my app and figuring out what playlist I am in the mood for. I arrive on the ground landing, walk to the edge of the sidewalk and hit the sneaker icon.

“Beginning Workout”

I run.

One orange and blue Altra sneaker appears and strikes. With each pound of the ground and I can hear myself breathing. My body feels heavy, uncoordinated and out of sync.

I continue to run.

I reach the gate of the neighborhood and straighten my posture, focusing on my stride and how my foot is landing now that I am on pavement and not the sidewalk. I keep my gaze up and focused on the oncoming traffic; pedestrians have a right to use the road as well. I stay to the edge and watch one foot strike in front of the other, like running on a balance beam so that I stay to the side of the road allowing traffic to pass. As my eyes gloss over the cars I make eye contact with some of the occupants. Thunder breaks my stare and I shift my line of sight to the purple grey clouds looming off in the distance.

I continue to run.

Out on the main street I choose a path, left, right or straight, never changing my gait. I never know where I will go until I get here, but I keep my focus and path as if I run the same route each day. Thunder roars again. I lose track of the music, focus on the vehicles passing by, focus on the storm clouds, focus on my mind. My body begins to feel less heavy, the air feels crisper as I get faster, my legs more resilient to the impact with each step, my breathing is through my nose, less labored and calmer. I begin to lose myself in my thoughts.

I continue to run.

My mind comes to life. All the thoughts, fears, excitement and ideas I have been dealing with begin to flood my brain. Everything begins to get organized. I pick one out, play it out in my mind. It doesn’t matter if it is happy or sad, frustrating or rewarding; it gets time and attention. I play it and replay it in my mind. I have the conversations with myself. No one else is around so I carry them out in my brain with as much scrutiny and detail as a script writer for a movie. I challenge myself to see it at all angles. Thunder booms, louder, closer, harder. I break my thoughts and glance up at the sky again, it’s dark but I still have time. My mind jumps back into the scene in my head, the pounding of my feet methodically easing me back to where I was before. I can reason, bargain, scream, console myself, whatever is needed to resolve the thought. No thought is too scary, too complex or too miniscule. I close that thought.

I continue to run.

The next thought comes up, I pick it and begin to work at it. Droplets. My arm is wet, it’s raining. Instant happiness. The rain is refreshing after the sweat, heat, and humidity. My rhythmic pace has completely consumed me, the rain doesn’t break my pace, my resolve. My head is filled with my own voice, working on the problem of the moment, fearlessly.

I continue to run.

The ground shakes. Thunder roars, it’s getting closer together. I eye my app, almost half way. I timed this just right. One by one I continue to work through my innermost thoughts. I don’t always make it through them all. I don’t always make it through one but I keep going through them, organizing; sometimes losing myself so much that I don’t even think, I just run, unfocused, effortlessly, intuitively.

“Halfway Point” chirps through my earbuds.

I turn around.

The rain is getting harder, I wipe my forehead and adjust my headband. Headlights come toward me as I run on the sidewalk adjacent to the street, windshield wipers flap back and forth like a metronome, like my feet, never breaking the rhythm. My thoughts come back to me. I pick the next thought. I pick it every time I run, It’s never finished, not yet resolved. Should I get help?

I continue to run.

War wages in my mind. The thoughts are flying like cake during a birthday cake fight. They’re chaotic, messy, colorful and sloppy. Emotions pour over me like the rain, no emotion is left out. I let it all flood over me focusing on my stride, my pace, my line of sight. I breathe calmly. It is the only moment of the day where I can actually handle all of the thoughts and emotions associated with it. The side that wants me to keep it a secret berates me with insults, comforts me with it’s protective promises, instills fear with thoughts of what ifs and soothes me with all the accomplishments it has helped me with. The side that wants me to tell is the underdog, taking the defensive route, rebutting the information the other side is giving, reminding me of the past, bringing up glimmers of hope for the future. I listen to them all shouting in my head, fighting to be the loudest as they all converse like a classroom full of first graders after recess.

I continue to run.

My mind is racing faster than my feet at this point. A million thoughts are running through my mind back and forth, back and forth the sides fight. If you tell they can help you, you can’t keep running like this forever if you starve yourself. Lies, yes you can you are doing fine, your pace is improving the last few months and you have been eating less, that’s proof. Remember how you cried in the grocery store last night? Remember all the pain you used to be in, that’s why you have to do this. Don’t tell. Tell. If you tell, they’ll take running away from you. They will take running away. Then you’ll definitely get fatter. Remember when you wanted to kill yourself but decided to wait until after your first half marathon? Remember how you fell in love with distance running? Well, they will take that from you if you tell. No, no they won’t they will help you get better and you can be a stronger runner. The chest pain when you run sometimes, that’s why you need to tell, they can fix that, they can help, you’ll be better and stronger and still able to run. Don’t listen to that, you were in the hospital on and off before you started restricting, since then you’re healthier; everything’s relative and this is what you need to do. Remember, they will take running away from you.

I continue to run.

Remember, they will take running away from you. That resonates. I think about that as I tune back in to my body. I’m strong, right? My feet continue to methodically pound the ground spending as little time as possible on the pavement before pushing off and accelerating me further down the road, my arms sway forward and back with each opposing foot as I progress toward the goal, toward the end. My eyes are steady on the horizon, glancing occasionally at the headlights, the storm clouds, and the rain puddles. I blink, water fogs my view as the droplets dangle on my eyelashes. I wipe them away as thunder cracks bringing me into realization.

I continue to run.

Remember, they will take running away from you. It’s still resonating, like an echo in a canyon it replays over and over again. I think about it, what my life was like before I ran and after I started. Running got me through all the bad medical stuff that eventually led up to this point in my life. It was my stabilizer, my reality check, my mountain to overcome and I conquered it. I was overweight and out of shape when I started, I persevered when I got sick, I clenched on to it when I had lost all hope in life and it got me through. I can’t lose it. But you are. The thought keeps reappearing. I think back to all of the realizations I have had over the last 7 months. Realization that I do restrict my calories not just out of fear of food but fear of calories, I do purge my meals not only when I am nauseous but when I just feel like I am getting fat, fear that I am killing myself doing this. Realization that this has turned into an eating disorder and fear of food. I let this part of me rush forward with thoughts. You know this is bad. You know you are killing yourself. This eating disorder is lying to you. Your family is worried. Your running is not improving you are getting weaker. You can’t run marathons on 200 calories a day. You keep passing out. You will die. It’s okay to get help.It’s okay to be scared. I pound out these thoughts with each step my feet take, each rain droplet that falls and each thought that passes. I absorb them, their words, their impact.

I continue to run.

I am getting closer to home. I see my neighborhood, my stop light, my community. I start bringing myself back to reality, focus on my stride, how I feel, what I know. I instinctively turn toward home easing my pace as I turn into my community for a mild cool down. I push the thoughts raging in my mind back in their place within my head and try to enjoy the last few minutes of peace and serenity. I think one last time about my dilemma. Do it, tell. Don’t do it. Remember they will take running from you. And try to combat that last punch. Try to fight through that thought with the ones from just minutes earlier that said to tell.

I turn the corner and see my house. In the last few minutes I try and relish and relive the moments of my run when I let myself feel, think and be in a completely non-judged and pressure free environment. It’s just me. The real me during those moments when the thoughts are flooding and I am trying to figure things out.

“Ending Workout”

I look down at my app. I’m done.

I stop running.

I tuck the last thoughts racing through my mind back and hide the emotions away as I walk up the stairs. Heading back to reality I hide that side of me away, until we meet again on the next run.

The click of the lock, that’s also where it ends.

2 thoughts on “Running Thoughts

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