Run Along Now

There’s a lot happening on this second day of the month. The Super Bowl. Groundhog Day. The palindrome 02-02-2020. My first trail run of the new year, though, is on the top of my list on this particular Sunday.

After spending the morning cleaning my home, I decided to spend the first part of the afternoon cleaning out my mind and renewing my body and soul on the trails. It was a picturesque day that made me think that Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of an early spring may be accurate afterall. Temperatures were in the low 60s, the clear blue sky provided the perfect backdrop for the bright yellow sun, and a light breeze complemented the warm air.

As I finished up the household chores, though, my giddy anticipation about returning to the trails unexpectedly morphed into anxiety. Trail running has been a source of solace and healing, so, the fact that I felt anxious about hitting the trails threw me for a loop. Everything has been going really well in my life off of the trails, and I had absolutely no reason to believe that life on the trails would be any different today. So, where was this coming from?

I shifted my attention from the anxious feelings to what thoughts were racing through my mind. Those thoughts are what trigger the anxiety and fan the flames to keep it burning in my mind and coarsing through my body. When I took my mind off of automatic pilot, I found the two culprits behind this anxiety takeover.

It’s been a couple of months since my last trail run. What if it’s too difficult, and I can’t finish it?

Having just watched a program about a runner in Utah who went missing and was found dead months later, for the first time, I was concerned about my safety. What if I meet with the same fate?

As I mulled over these two thoughts, I conceded that the anxiety made some valid points. Could one or both of those things happen? Yes. Would these fears keep me off of the trails? No, but the anxiety wasn’t giving up that easily. So, as much as I feared that these anxious feelings would derail my trail running plans and just wanted it to go away, I decided to invite it to go with me.

I did not ignore it or resist it. Instead, I treated it as a separate entity or person. I acknowledged it, thanked it for bringing its concerns to my attention, and did not allow it to rob me of something I enjoy immensely. So, off we went.

The park was packed with people who were taking full advantage of this springlike day, and my usual parking area was full. As I looked for another place to park my car, the anxiety suggested that this was a sign to turn around and go home. I considered it for a minute, but I kept driving. Once a parking space was secured, I laced up my shoes, popped my earbuds in, started my playlist, and set off down the trail for my first run of 2020.

Immediately, my heart began to beat faster and harder, my lungs burned, and my leg muscles ached, for what was a rough re-entry into world of trail running. I began to wonder if the anxiety had been right about this being too challenging and thought of stopping in my tracks. I made a deal with the anxiety that I could cut the run short at any point, if needed, but I wanted to keep going. So, I did and took the anxiety with me.

A little further down the path, I saw a man walking in my direction, and I surmised that he could very well be the serial killer that the anxiety had warned me about, not just someone enjoying a hike. I felt a surge of anxiety, before I reminded myself that the warm weather lured more runners, hikers, and bikers to the trails than usual, so, there was safety in numbers. As I passed by him, I picked up my pace to put some distance between us, looked back to discover he was still walking in the opposite direction and not a threat to me, and kept on running.

As I settled into my run, I lost myself in the beautiful scenery that surrounded me, my favorite music filling my ears, and gratitude for being alive and present in this very moment. At some point, the anxiety ran along, leaving me to run alone. I powered through a long run that left me feeling both exhausted and exhilarated.

While I still don’t know what led to the pre-run anxiety, what I do know is that I have the ability to make sure that it does not overstay its welcome. It no longer holds me captive or fools me into believing its lies. I already am looking forward to my next trail run, with or without anxiety as my running partner.

That’s another story. . .

Categories: That's Another Story

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