I have fallen in love with a great many people, foods, sports and rock ballads in my day. I can’t exactly say if I am fickle or exuberant with childlike enthusiasm about the world, but either way it’s made for a rich life of diversity and a geographically challenged affair with okra.
The thing about finding love is that there is often some lost love along the way (see: a string of hilariously mismatched relationships and chia seeds). Through all of those, there has been a single constant romance in my life: running. I have run through a love of plant-based diets, at least one divorce, a post-graduate degree, pregnancy, paleo life, raising a preteen. I have loved running through my rap phase, international travel, trauma, depression, diagnosis, and the year I only listened to Indigo Girls. I even loved running through smoking.
So when running and I had to break up (it’s me, not you), the tragedy was felt in every corner of my soul. I nearly had an identity crisis. Not one to wallow, I quickly moved to finding other love affairs. I took up rowing and single leg squats. I tried to learn the banjo. I told myself running was just a stepping stone to other, more fulfilling relationships. I told myself I had to learn to love myself without running’s approval and constant acknowledgments in the form of logged miles.
Time passed and the emptiness in my heart filled with the other things. They were OK, I guess. The rebound relationships of newfound hobbies. But I would often see running off in the distance and pine for the pleasure and pain of its love. I saw other people loving running and questioned their motives. Did they even really love running? I knew I needed to win running back, at whatever cost.
It cost me a surgery and some patience and some hiking. And then it started happening. There was a sort of awkward, intrepid introduction. We had to get to know each other again. It wasn’t the roses and dusty toes I had imagined in my head. It wasn’t the soft patter of my feet along packed trails, the strides and leaps from boulder to boulder, the wide grin with gnats in my teeth. It wasn’t the easy relationship I had once known.
It was work and it was hard and my body wasn’t even sure it liked running at all anymore. Some parts of my body threatened to jiggle right off the frame. Also, my shorts felt more like hot pants all of a sudden. I had forgotten the kind of humility it takes to repair damaged and neglected relationships. Maybe running had misled me. Maybe running couldn’t be trusted after all. Who is the fickle one now?
I considered throwing in the towel. Then I remembered an interview I saw with Bette Midler in which she said the secret to staying married is to never, ever, ever get divorced. This is sage advice. So I kept running. I ran a few miles here and a few miles there. We dabbled in that dirty word – compromise – sometimes walking the hills. Running held out for a little while, but just as I wondered if we’d make it, the grit and grind suddenly gave way to endorphins and bliss.
I remember the exact moment it happened. I had hiked up a long, steep trail. The weather was breezy and cool. The air smelled of wet earth and late summer. I had good memories of running on this trail, even one of me somersaulting down the mountain and managing to bruise every limb and my torso in the process. I turned to descend and broke into a jog. And then, I was running.
It was the kind of run that made me feel like a kid, that erased all my tasks for the day, that demanded I just live free in this very moment, picking my footing and tearing down the dirt path with the ridiculous smile of a woman in love. I floated down the trail on featherlight toes, half panting, half laughing. I might have gone a mile or a hundred. Time and distance had no place here.
And just like that, we were in love all over again.
Ammi Midstokke can be contacted at email@example.com
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