The other day I was texting Mom that I wanted to start feeling like myself again, get back to how I used to do things and reclaim my peace.
I also noticed in the gym that I’m pastier than usual. I’ve always been pretty fair, minus the (pretty mild) tan I pick up in the summer, but I’m looking white white. It’s a 50-50 split if my lower body is going to lean out or bulk up during the current running/training cycle, and this time around my thighs are looking more muscular than lean. This is good. However, because of how pale I am, it looks like two white blocks are peeking out of my shorts.
I know tanning beds are frowned upon, but right now, one sounds kinda good. I’m digressing right now and I’m not bothered by it.
But now it’s time to move on to the real topic: I’m back to evening running.
When I first started running, I was an evening and weekend runner. Originally the evening right after work was to destress from the day before, as well as to explore the city on foot since I was still new to Columbus at that point in time. Running along the Scioto Promenade and through Arena District made me feel alive. Eventually I started running three nights a week in Grandview Heights/Upper Arlington when I had a temp job in that area, and I absolutely loved it.
I’m not really sure why I stopped the evening runs around 2017. Maybe I started getting tired after work and wanted to get home to Marina kitty, or thought I was going to be a serious runner and start running first thing in the cold, dark mornings so I could tell Instagram I did. By 2019 evening runs and really any evening work outs were kaput – I was in my former relationship and the evenings were for us. So I would get up in the mornings to either run or lift until one day, I just couldn’t.
It was finally about a month ago, when I spent another workday morning lamenting that I couldn’t get up and get going no matter how early I woke up. I finally had to ask myself the question that should have been asked a long time ago: If the mornings are impossible for you to get out of the house, run, then get back to shower and get to work on time, why don’t you run after work?
I have to say that a month of chilled out mornings – waking up at 5, spending the first hour cuddling with Marina on the couch or brushing her while sipping on some coffee – has done wonders for managing stress. So has prioritizing getting at least seven hours of sleep a night. I understand the fitness folks who have families and therefore have to be at the gym at 5 a.m. if they want to run or train at all. However, as a single, no-children-just-a-cat woman, there really was no reason for me to be getting up that early and forcing myself to do something that wasn’t working in my favor.
Slowly I’ve been making the switch to evening runs, first on the treadmill at the work gym. Then I finally worked up the nerve to pack my fuel belt in my gym bag and go outside.
Two nights this week of nine miles – four on Monday and five on Tuesday.
And running in that evening sunshine was glorious.
The only thing I should have done differently on both nights was not to start my run by heading west on First Avenue, since First Avenue past one of the elementary schools is a straight hill. I’m never warmed up in the first mile, so choosing the literal path of most resistance was pretty dumb.
But then once I got to the top of it, the tense calves didn’t matter. Monday night’s run was basically around the block, up First Avenue, down the hill on Grandview Avenue, then heading east back towards work on Goodale Blvd. The city skyline was just ahead of me, and it brought comfort. I felt like it was the spring of 2016, when the city was very new and exciting to me.
I rarely run on back-to-back days, but I already decided I was running Tuesday after work no matter what Monday’s run felt like. Another trip up the hill on First Avenue – to confirm that the hill is in fact still there and does in fact suck to run up – and I decided to keep going straight to see where First Avenue would take me. In the past whenever I ran through Grandview Heights, I’d mostly stick to Third Avenue, where the restaurants and boutiques are. First Avenue has some businesses but is mostly homes – beautiful homes with landscaping that gave me some ideas for this year’s (attempt at a) patio garden.
I used the roundabout at First/Cambridge Boulevard to turn around and head back towards Grandview Avenue. Even if it’s out of my way to get there, I will never turn down an opportunity to run downhill. From Grandview to Goodale I made my way back to work. Originally the idea was to run four miles like the evening before. However, I have a firm policy of not pre-planning routes on shorter runs, since the fun of evening runs is making the path up as you go and getting to see neighborhoods and trails in a different light.
A loop around the small green space near work rounded me up to five miles for Tuesday evening. My phone said it was 82 degrees last night, and while I didn’t feel bad on my run – the shade from all the trees is my best friend – once I was done and back in the locker room, I realized how drenched I was. A drowned rat may not be the prettiest mental picture, but it is the most accurate.
Looking back on the runs and the past five months generally – hell, even the past two years – I didn’t realize until I got home last night how out of order I’ve been. There’s been a fear within me thanks the past two years being so damn topsy-turvy, which turned to depression after losing Grandpa. I knew what I needed to do to keep going – in both life and running – and yet I couldn’t pull through that exhausted funk to actually do any of it.
And yet these past two nights, during the runs and the huffing and puffing up the hills and elation at seeing shade or downhills, I felt like my old self again. It was 2016 and I was the 24 year old trying something new and having fun doing it.
But I’m not her.
It’s 2022, I’m 30 years old. I’m older, hopefully wiser, and definitely with some cracks in the vase. And yet emotionally and mentally, I felt peaceful and like the old me again. Not like 24 year old me, but like 30 year old me who accepts the world around her and forgives herself daily. The me who started those evening runs to discover the world around her on her own two feet – and get abs.
The abs part is still a work in progress, but then again, which parts of me aren’t?
The runs reminded me that I’m tough as nails and to never underestimate simple pleasures. The sunshine reminded me there’s always a light somewhere and that I need to get outside of my own head on a regular basis.
It may be a corny way to end this, but the chorus to “Cover Me In Sunshine” by Pink and Willow Sage Hart really do sum up the past two evenings.
Cover me in sunshine,
Shower me with good times,
Tell me that the world keeps spinnin’ since the beginnin’,
And everything will be alright.
Yours in writing and running,