I keep a magic mirror in front of my treadmill. When I run in front of it, I see the reflection of myself in 2007, doing my Ironman, weighing 212 lbs. My reflection look strong and relaxed, happy to knock out the miles without a care in the world. Six mile run for breakfast? No problem for my reflection. Long slow 18 miler to support a friend training for the marathon? No problem for my reflection.
Want to know where I got this magic mirror? Home Depot. That’s right, the good old cheapo. To be honest, it’s just a regular 10 dollar mirror. The magic is in the placement. It turns out that the wife could not see herself in the mirror when I was on the treadmill, so she moved it way off center. It’s so far to the right that I can only see my shoulder and elbow when running, and there’s the magic. I cannot see the parts of my body that make it clear that I have gained lots of weight since 2007. I cannot see bounce that didn’t used to be there. I cannot see performance garments stretched beyond their designed capacity. I cannot see how far I have fallen.
All I can see is my strong shoulder and elbow bobbing up and down to the rhythm of my running. This is the shoulder of a runner. This is the shoulder of a person who can tap out the miles effortlessly. This is the shoulder of an Ironman. This view is exactly the same as it was in 2007.
All I need to do is to keep running, and remember that my 2007 self is inside of me, just waiting to get out. If I do that, the magic will become real once again. It is all a matter of perspective.
Things at work get crazy. Family life goes totally insane. Your dog gets sick. You have to move. You have to move in 5 days instead of two months. You change jobs. Your kid needs braces. You get hurt. You get burnt out. You forget how much you love running. You…
That’s just the way life is. Any quiet life presents you rarely lasts. There is always change, both good and bad, right around the corner. The unfortunate part is that this can often get in the way of your running. Trust me, I know. I had been running nonstop for over eight years without an extended break. I thought the habit was formed for life, and I would always run 2-3 times a week.
Things changed. I fell on hard financial times. I moved. I got a new job. Things got crazy. I was suddenly pouring hours that were previously used to take care of my body into the new challenges that I was facing. Guess what happened to my running?
One day I woke up to realize that I had run just one time in the past six months. I gained weight. My body no longer felt like it did. I suddenly started noticing stairs, and how out of breath they caused me to be. I started to sleep badly. I forgot how much I loved running, and what it did for me both mentally and physically.
In the past, I would have gotten very down about this loss of fitness. I might have given up running forever. Not this time. I now know better. I know that you can always start up again. It may take a while to get back to where you were, but it is possible. That’s just what I am doing. I have been getting out for three 20 minute runs a week. I am so slow. My lungs have lost so much strength. Guess what? I don’t care one bit. These twenty minute runs are great. I am reconnecting with why I run in the first place. The running may be slow, but I love it. I feel wonderful about being back on the horse. My body feels better after I run, and I am sleeping better. Next week I am going to start doing 25 minute runs, and going forward, I will slowly add time to my efforts. It will take ages to get back to where I was (having a strong marathon after already swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles). I am not worried about that. All I am doing is enjoying where I am today. I am still a runner.
Will this be the last time I ever take an extended break? Who can say. All I know for sure is that life always intrudes. That is just the way things are. What I can do is control is how I deal with the events I am faced with. Going forward I will do my best to make sure that I find time for my running even when things get tough. I will also remember to immediately forgive myself if I do fall of the wagon. All I can do is understand that life intrudes, and do best I can do. That is enough.