My runs have gone better this week. I'm not in nearly as much pain and I'm beginning to remember why I like running, why I started in the first place.
I am not a natural runner. I was not born with the gift. I do not look like a gazelle sprinting effortlessly across the African plains when I hit the trails. I am not like my friend, Andrew, who runs a 4:30 minute mile without trying very hard. I am not like my friend and former professional triathlete, Lori, who is like the Energizer Bunny on speed.
I'm just me. An average girl (I refuse to refer to myself as a woman - it's sounds like I'm talking about my mom. No offense, mom), who tries to defy genetics to do what I know is good for me. In truth, I love to run. Well, jog, actually. But, it's not easy for me. It's not natural. It's hard, hard work sometimes. I'm often the last one in the pack to make it up a big hill and my race times are hardly impressive.
So, for me, victory does not come in the form of breaking through the shiny finish line tape. For me, victory is that I get out there and pound the pavement anyway.
Yesterday, I ran 6 miles with my pack, my running girls. They totally kicked my butt on the hills, as usual. Even while we chatted, catching up on the details of each others's lives, I prayed. Time on the trail doubles as my time with the Creator, who gave me lungs and legs in the first place.
Afterward, when I was back in the car, heading home in my sweaty gear, I inhaled as deeply as my lungs would allow. Oxygen infused every single cell in my body and I felt startlingly alive, surprisingly clean. I looked at my normally bloodshot eyes in the rearview mirror and they were crystal clear. Running helps me bring everything into focus. The unnecessary, ridiculous things fade away and the raw, true things fly to the surface.
Ah, I thought. This is why I run.
(By the way, this photo actually is of a trail I run on.... :) )