I have cellulite.
I have wrinkles.
I have a belly that, despite my hard work, refuses to lie flat unless I do a lot of weight training and a borderline starvation diet (and even then, it decreases only temporarily).
I am not fast.
I don’t dwell on these things when I head out on my early morning runs, I think about how many layers it will take to stay warm. I think about how sleek I feel in my tights. I think about getting out and getting started as quickly as I can.
When I wake up and it’s still dark, leaving my warm bed is not the first thing I want to do. I sometimes lie there and tell myself I don’t really need to get up right now, maybe I can run later. I need the sleep, don’t I? But eventually, I think about the rest of the day I have ahead of me. My brain starts humming, and I am irrevocably awake.
I wasn’t always an early riser, but these days, it’s not so weird for me to get up early. The cats get up with me and follow me through the house, silently watching me get ready. They know when the alarm goes off that there will be brief activity, and then I’m gone and it gets quiet again.
Right now, I’m training for the longest distance I’ve ever run, and yeah, I’m thinking about that a lot. I’m getting surprising feedback from my body: the more I run, the better I feel. My hip pain is non-existent. I can run a lot of miles, and my legs recover. My feet recover.
During my early morning runs the traffic is quiet, often the moon is still up. Sometimes I’ll run into one or two other people out running or walking, but mostly it’s quiet. I get to know the wildlife in the early morning — the frigid ducks, the trilling cranes.
Sometimes when I am running in the right direction, the sun will cast a long shadow ahead of me, which makes me look very tall and slim. I fantasize that I am one of those long-legged effortless gazelle type runners, even though I know I’m not.
While my body is holding up well, it’s my brain that needs the training. I’ve signed up for this crazy big thing without knowing if I really can do it. I’m putting my complete trust into my training plan, my coach, my body, and it’s scary. Just like training for my first Ironman, I won’t know if I can finish this distance until I’m done. It’s scary to invest so much time and so much dedication to training without knowing how it will go, or if I’ll finish. I suppose that’s one of the things I like about these adventures, I find the uncertainty both terrifying and exhilarating.
I feel like I’m training on a fine line – I worry that if I push a bit too hard, I might hurt myself. Some of my long training runs have left me aching and spent. Mentally I’m completely unsure. At the end of my last marathon (which I ran as a training run), the thought of running it again made me feel nauseous. I think about how I felt running 50K and wonder if I could do another 20 miles after that? I know I can run 40 miles, but I know that at the end of that 40, I was cooked. Can I run 10 more after that?
Some of my training partners are those slim leggy cheetah runners. Most of my training partners are faster than me. Maybe they feel the weight of uncertainty, maybe they don’t. I’m here in my aging, sagging body and I know what I know. I have my doubts and run anyway, because I like to run, and I like this goal. Besides, what else was I doing with my time?
I come back in the door sweaty and flushed, and wake my still-sleeping family with my cold hands…I don’t think about my cellulite, or my round belly, or my wrinkles. I think about how good I feel.