There are many things that as runners we have been known to experience… runner’s knee, runner’s stomach, and runner’s toenails, to name just a few. The list could go on and on. There is another affliction that some of us experience, yet we don’t always recognize, talk about, or address it. It is something that lurks in the subconscious of our minds and makes guest appearances at various times in our training schedules. What is this mysterious affliction? I’ll give you a hint- it struck me at 5:10 Saturday morning, as I slipped out of my warm, comfy bed for about the 10th Saturday in a row. As I left my husband, I wondered as I do every Saturday if he truly didn’t mind that I was again leaving so early, on one of the two days we could sleep in.
While he slept, I enjoyed my pre-run meal of waffles and coffee. I checked my email, cleaned up a bit, and enjoyed the morning. As I made final preparations before leaving the house, I went to say goodbye to him. He was sound asleep and probably did not even remember that I kissed him and said I’d be back in a few hours. (Note: I just checked with him, and in fact, he did not remember.) All systems, as they say, were go. Go running, go meet your good friend, go enjoy yourself. So I did.
I was happy to be on my way to start the day with a run. Others may look at Saturdays as days of sleeping in and lounging. Now, I see nothing wrong with that, mind you- but if I were forced to do this, I would probably hurt someone in the process. Somewhere along the way my dad’s “You’re sleeping the day away” permanently imbedded itself in my mind.
While I was totally psyched to be headed for my run, the day before I had different thoughts. I wasn’t feeling so confident in my decision to join the ranks of fellow morning runners. Initially, I was glad to have secured another Saturday run at 6:30. After committing to that start time early in the Friday workday, I began mentally preparing for the run during my morning middle school classes. Half of my brain was teaching, the other half deciding if I’d do 10 or 12 miles the next day. This was a good way to spend the morning- it certainly made the 13 year olds more tolerable.
But then another voice began to creep into my head, and it was a voice I knew all too well. Aunt Guilt was paying me a visit. Should I really be leaving my husband every Saturday? What kind of message was that sending… would he think my running was more important than him? Already my nightly runs or workouts were set in stone, permanent blocks of time that delayed our dinner to 6:30 or 7:00, so that I could hit the gym after work. This was what I did, and the thought of stopping this frightened me, so I continued.
Yet it also frightened me to consider what my “habit” might do to those I loved. Running was important to me, yes, but I did realize that I had other things in my life that were much, much more important- my husband and two step kids, for starters.
Enter the conflict.
Prior to meeting my husband, I was footloose and fancy-free. I ran when I wanted, for as long as I wanted. Aunt Guilt didn’t stop me then, it was more like Aunt Weather Issue, or her children who I will just call “the injuries.” They were the only forces that prevented me from meeting my Saturday morning crew.
On that Friday afternoon, however, Aunt Guilt was like a leg cramp at mile 19 of a marathon, she was intolerable and showed no signs of leaving. She traumatized me so much that I emailed my friend in desperation and told her I just didn’t feel right about being away another Saturday a.m. I didn’t want to make her mad or throw off her schedule, but I knew what I had to do- cancel. Her response made me breathe a sigh of relief and also surprised me. She said, “No problem. I know exactly what you’re talking about… it happens to me often. Email if you change your mind.” She understood! She got it! I wasn’t the only freak with an internal guilt system. She had the voice too!
With that bit of knowledge, something inside me began to shift. I thought more about just why I didn’t think I should run. When I got home that night, I asked my husband point blank- “Do you mind that I run every Saturday? Is this bad for me to do when the kids are here?” He looked at me like I asked if he minded if I bathed.
“Of course I don’t mind. Running is your thing. You have to do what you have to do. Besides, it gives me a chance to hang out by myself.” Alrighty, then. So he wanted the time to himself just as much as I did. He wanted to sleep a big longer than 5:10 on a Saturday (perfectly reasonable) and then proceed with the morning, on his clock. It’s not that we wanted to get away from each other, but rather do something for ourselves during our free time. Interesting concept- the world didn’t begin and end with my run schedule… huh. Needless to say, I emailed my friend the next minute, and the run was back on.
The next day, as I met my friend, I immediately asked her about this whole guilt thing. We talked about how many things pulled each one of us on a given day- work, family responsibilities, bills, shopping, friendships, catching Oprah from time to time, emails, voice mails, snail mails… the list was endless. Sometimes, we felt guilty for escaping on a run. Would we manage to get it all done? But then, the more we considered it, the more we realized how ridiculous the notion of not escaping was. We decided that running made us better at the things we had to do when we weren’t running. Further, we proclaimed that if we had to rate running on a hierarchy of needs, it was more necessity than luxury.
I have a feeling that most of you reading this have also gone on runs where you’ve left husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, kids at home. And I imagine that you, too, have felt pangs of guilt- making you wonder if this little bit of freedom is “deserved” or “okay.” My response to that would be something along the lines of “Hell. Yes.” And I’ll gladly shout that directly into Aunt Guilt’s face should she decide to show up again. Because, as we all know- life is busy. Life is unpredictable. Life, is just plain nutty. And if you, as my friend and I have, decide that running is one thing that helps you manage life and all of its craziness… well then, run.
Because, after all… it’s your life, and yours to enjoy. So enjoy your run… guilt does terrible things to your stride.