Monday, September 14, 2009
My Running Identity
There were a number of athletic activities that Phil introduced me to during our marriage. He loved all things outdoors, he especially loved risky sports, fast cars, and physically challenging tasks. Our vacations always included exercise related activities in beautiful locations, and we would regularly spend several hours a day hiking, biking, or running. Not only did we exercise together when we were on a trip, but our daily routine included a dual workout. Phil always believed that if he could complete a physical feat, than I could, too. There were many times I wondered about my sanity as I followed him down a scary trail flying downhill after him on my mountain bike.
As a personal trainer, I am passionate about fitness. I enjoy a variety of activities and regularly remind myself (and others) that 'move it or lose it' is a very true statement! In Phil I found a partner that loved to move as much as I did, and we relished plotting and planning for our next fitness adventure. When he died I lost a part of my fitness identity, and found myself floundering in a world I previously embraced. Did I love to bike? Or did I only love to bike with Phil? Was running something I would enjoy alone, or would my heart break pounding the pavement by myself? How could I face a climbing a mountain without the person who protected me from wildlife that may want to eat me? The big question became what role does fitness play in MY life now that the person who made everything an adventure was gone.
Through trial and error I have slowly uncovered the answer to that question. First, I have not been able to reawaken a love of cycling after Phil died riding his bike. At first I saw my inability to cycle as caving into death or allowing fear to rob me of an activity that I loved. Now I see this is one of the things that I came to enjoy because of Phil. And it just isn't fun without him.
Running on the other hand, centers me. For months when I ran I felt as if I was somehow escaping the pain...traveling as fast as possible away from the heartache. Then I realized that the pain I felt followed me wherever I went. While running I saw Phil on street corners;, I could almost hear his breath in my ear; his voice would challenge me to run farther than I thought I could, and yet at the end of every course I came home alone.
I've run a lot of solo miles. While traveling along the courses we used to run together, I've cried, I've screamed, I've raged at the unfair reality that is now my life, and I have learned to run on my own--for my own reasons. Those first runs without Phil felt lopsided, my center was ripped out and my gait drastically changed. But slowly I began to find my own unique stride, and the certainty that I do love to run.
Turns out I do love fitness as passionately as I did before Phil died, and that I have found a way to embody that fire that is uniquely my own.