Hey Runners, raise your hand if you’ve ever crapped your pants while running? How about shit in the grass? Taken a dump on a tree trunk? Popped a squat in the weeds and prayed for a clean break? Yeah, that’s what I thought. You’re in good company, my friends.
Fort that reason, I like to two things before I run – drink coffee and then use the facilities. Because there’s nothing like running when you have to go numero dos. And there’s nothing that helps you go numero dos mas than a cup of coffee. Otherwise the inevitable will happen and I’ll be a mile into my run and find myself up shit creek without a paddle or toilet paper.
Running has a way of stirring things up. The feet start pounding and the body finds it’s rhythm. Things well up and beg to be released.
Sometimes it’s physical and we’re predictably searching for the nearest porta potty. We sprint, we sweat, we pray that we find one in time. We run with our butt cheeks squeezed so tight that a full stride is impossible. Sometimes we’re lucky and can do the deed in a private, civilized manner. Other times, our only option is to drop the shorts and crap in full view. Regardless, we leave that which weighs us down on the trail. And it feels glorious.
Running stirs up more than the intestines. It energizes the bowels of our mind and churns the depths of our souls. We find things that we thought were gone forever. Memories. Joy. Fear. Brilliance. Anxiety. Excitement. Hurt. It comes out – with every pounding step, we feel things we’d forgotten. We move in the hidden thoughts, secrets even. We leave that which weighs us down on the trail. And it feels glorious.
Training for a half marathon without a running buddy is something I said I’d never do. Really. I had no interest in running for miles and miles alone with nobody to talk to. Four, six miles alone? Sure, that’s enjoyable. But eight, ten miles solo? “No thanks.” (Said the spoiled California girl that lived within 5 minutes of all her best buddies.)
Maybe I just love hanging with my friends that much. But, maybe I’ve also been hesitant to spend so much time alone on the road with just me and my thoughts. My feelings. My truth.
No small talk. No bullshit.
Well, I’m a gritty Oregonian now. So, I run alone. In the rain. Uphill, both ways. And I’m training for a half marathon without a buddy in tow. Miles upon miles upon miles. Just me, myself and I.
As I’ve been clocking the miles over the past weeks, running has left me no choice but to feel all the feelings and think all the thoughts. I’ve found myself my pants down, behind a tree (without toilet paper) both literally and figuratively. The physical challenge makes me vulnerable to the emotions that I might otherwise choose to ignore. It frames up my mind to access things that I can’t otherwise.
I’ve left things on the trail – things that I’ve wanted to leave behind but didn’t know how. Anger. Grief of what could have been. Sadness over a life left behind. Fear of the foreign.
I’ve stopped mid run to jot down feelings and thoughts that were too sharp to keep in my mind.
I’ve paused to capture emotion that I felt would be gone the instant I wrapped my run.
I’ve run uphill shouting battle cries at the damn fears I can’t seem to break free from.
I’ve cried. I’ve struggled. I’ve grown. And in some ways, I’ve even conquered. The trail has heard my fears and insecurities, felt my tears and frustration.
What starts as a “long run” to check off the training schedule, ends up being so much more. The value is not just in the endurance, it’s in the time spent making the physical and mental journey.
And at the end of the road, I am lighter. More free. Better for it.