A few days ago, I went for a walk around this beautiful historical estate that’s practically next to where I live now.
I’ve been making some big changes in my life recently, and some of them have been pretty difficult. This park feels like home to me, so I went there to clear my head.
I walked around for a little while, and then stopped to lie down on the grass. It was so peaceful, in the warm sun. I just wanted to take in the moment.
And then I looked up, and saw this view:
Suddenly, it hit me.
I thought back to the days in high school, before I got compartment syndrome, when I would have been here running.
Rushing, rushing, hurrying, going as fast as I could. A high-intensity day. Three miles, in as little time as I could.
Or maybe it would have been an endurance day, and I’d be purposely holding myself back for the first few miles, so that I could stretch my run out to six or seven.
I loved running. I loved pushing myself, the freedom.
But you know what I wouldn’t have been doing? Looking around me.
Looking up, specifically.
You can’t really look up when you’re running, at least not when you’re outside. You have to look at the ground almost constantly, to make sure an awkwardly-placed tree root doesn’t leave you on crutches for the next two months.
I loved running. Everything about it– the thrill of pushing myself, the endorphin rush, the adventure of being outside.
But it was always a blur. Even when I ran through my favorite places– and I knew some beautiful trails– I was never able to stop and enjoy it. In my head, it was keep going, keep going. You have to burn calories. You’re going to get fat.
I could never pause, never rest. Even on Sundays, when my coaches made all of us promise not to run… I tried to go for walks, but I just wanted to be running.
I’d be in the middle of the most beautiful nature scenes, and all I’d be able to think about was how hungry I was. And how fat I was going to get from not running that day, from the meager calories I’d decided to allow myself.
Things are so different now.
I can’t do the same things with my body that I used to, but I can look up.
I can go to a beautiful place, without having to spend almost the entire time staring at the ground. I can stop if I want to; I can pause.
Don’t get me wrong; I will always love running, and exercise in general. I love a good endorphin buzz even more than I love coffee in the morning.
But I exercise now because I want to; not because I’m afraid of what will happen if I take a day off.
It’s such a crazy feeling, and I don’t know if anyone who hasn’t been through it themselves can know what I mean.
I know what it’s like to have the ability to pause, because at one point I lost it.
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