Archive for March, 2009

Cover Me, Recovery

Feeling Comfort is a Type of Care

Feeling Comfort is a Type of Running Care

Recovery. Run. Recovery run. I’ve been trained into thinking that the only reason why you would go on a recovery run is to recover from an especially taxing and/or long run from the day before. As if this is the only thing I ever need to recover from.

I realized this morning that I often use running as a way to recover from something else that is going on in my life. And most of the time my life can feel really overwhelming, so every run becomes a reason/way to recover.

I sobbed for two hours last night. With the weight of all the fucked up things that had happened in my day hanging on to my shoulders, I got home feeling tired, sad, disrespected, manipulated, abused, and just completely worn down. Absolutely broken. Crying at midnight brought on panic attacks and dry heaving, which brought on trauma flashbacks and a general feeling of enough of this life already. Ain’t it just grand how trauma welcomes more trauma? Such fun.

Thanks to an amazing friend who called me back at 2am, I was finally able to just calm down and sleep for a few hours.

I woke up at 6am with a crying hangover. So dried out and spent. Dessicated. How fucking puffy can my eyes get?!? Dehydrated–a complete understatement. And while I woke up knowing that I wouldn’t go on that integral 16 mile shorter-long run I needed to do as part of my off-week, I could feel me still needing to feel myself run today. Something was still lingering in my body that needed to get out.

In college, after a night of heavy, heavy drinking I would make myself run at least 1.5 miles when I woke up in the morning (or afternoon–whenever it was I actually stumbled out of bed). Thought it was the best way to get over a hangover. Run and sweat it out of me. Recover. Painful, but a type of self-care.

11am. I’ve been awake for five hours, and I finally start to feel alive again. Well, alive in the sense that I’ve had some coffee, talked about what my night was like to three different people–let them hold and reflect my pain–read the introduction to an amazing book called Trauma Stewardship, napped for 15 minutes instead of crying more (which is what I really wanted to do, but my eyes were on protest from producing so many tears), and then when I woke up I knew it was time to run.

It’s cold and gray outside. The arms of Winter reaching out to hold back Spring, cover and protect her really, from the force of Summer that will hopefully hit sooner than I expect. It’s a final reminder of the cold that we survived through these past 3 months. And the feel of today reminds me of how far away June is. We’re still more in winter than summer, and this thought only bumps up my desire to stay inside and hide from the world. But I needed to move. I needed to bundle myself up in all of my heaviness of thoughts and emotions, and just run with it. Run through it.

I knew that my body needed to recover from sobbing so much last night. I needed to move, to zone out, to just feel something else.

I rarely listen to music when I run. But today was a much needed music day. Something soft, slow, comforting. I wanted to lie in bed all day, and I wanted to wake up and run while doing it. I needed my run to be as comforting as my bed.

I have a playlist on my iPod called “Calm Me the Fuck Down.” It’s the perfect mix of intentional lyrics and grounding music to help slow me down and breath. But for some reason this playlist always makes me run fast. Maybe it’s the lack of pressure that I feel from it. There aren’t any upity beats telling me that I must keep going–Faster!–Faster! No, the calm-me-the-fuck-down music allows me to settle into myself, find my own rhythm, breath into each step, and get comfortably lost in the feeling of it all. It’s like being supported by a trauma-informed friend who GETS IT. No pressure. Just be. Hold.

I set out to just do 2 miles. Feeling so dead, dragging, and utterly dehydrated I was sure I couldn’t handle much more than that. But I knew the dehydrated pain of the 2 miles would be worth the feeling of running them.

My body so needed this recovery.

Space opened for me. I settled into myself with my music, my desire for a feeling to escape, and my heavy eyelids trying to stay open to take in the pillowy gray of the world around me.

I ended up doing 5.5 miles in 44:23. And it felt easy.

Like a recovery run.

And while I don’t think I’m completely recovered, I feel a bit less vulnerable and naked to the world. Covered, in a sense. Re-covered for now.

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Built of Bricks

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7.4 miles this morning in 59:58. 6:30am. Saw in an intersection on Devon and out past Western a chunk of street where the asphalt had chipped away. Laid down brick underneath. Settled, old. smooth red brick. Is this what these streets are really made of? I think of the section of Glenwood near Morse where the street is all brick. I’m probably supposed to be reminded of old cobblestone streets with the sound of horse hooves clomping forward. The past. Something old. And how we’ve paved over it for something more modern. New. And maybe I briefly think of these things, but what my mind really sparks to when I see this revealed brick is that I have no idea what is under all of these streets. Every day I run around here–around this city. And in truth, I have no idea how all of this was created. Who laid down that brick that some other person eventually paved over, only to be eroded away by icy Chicago winters, resistant salt thrown down by a (hopefully paid) city worker, and what car tires crunched over it all moving onto what destination? And who am I to look at it? How do I come to this situation?

What is laid underneath me?

I feel there is something beneath me rising up.

Or is it something within me that hopes to eventually be seen as a bigger part?

Tear away. Re-create. Discover.

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Why I Am Here

I run. I run a lot. While this running a lot is not necessarily a new development in my life, the meaning of it is. I ran my first marathon when I was 17. Now, at the ripe old age of 25 I’ve completed my first 50 mile race. It took me 8 hours. Other than surprise and shock, another immediate response I usually get from people when they hear about my ultrarunning habit is “What do you think about for all of that time?” And I want to ask, Well, what do YOU think about for any 8 hour time period?

Aren’t we always thinking? Why is it that people think that thinking while running is different than any other type of thinking? Is it?

But you asked, so I’ll attempt to answer.

I could start with a list of songs that I sing to myself, of parts of my thesis I think about while running, as well as that never ending list of what I need to do today after this run. I could name for you the songs that get stuck on a loop in my head when I cross certain streets with melody-inducing names (Virginia near Legion Park along the North Shore Chanel always makes me start to sing “Meet Virginia” by Train–and I haven’t actually heard that song in years, but the chorus is there, every single damn time I run along that trail). I could tell you how running is like meditation for me–that I don’t know what I think about because I’m just being. I could name for you the people that I love, why I love them, and why thinking about them while I’m running makes me both slow down and speed up. I could explain in detail for you the fake races I create in my mind to push me through the boring. I could recite Ani Difranco’s 9-minute long poem “Self Evident” for you. I could recite it again, again, again, again, again, again, and damn, again, until that last mile is done with.

I could try and re-create my mind for you.

That might even be fun for me to do.

I don’t think it’s possible, though.

But this is why I am here.

I’ve realized lately that I’ve never given myself the space to talk about running. I’ve always had friends who aren’t runners–who would rather drink beer and smoke cigarettes than run. And I’ve always honored this in every person that I hold dear to me. Hell, I enjoy drinking beer and smoking cigarettes, too, so I have always had that be the part of my life that I share with my friends, not my running. I realize this is a judgment on my part. Why would a non-runner care about how my 12 mile run went this morning? Wouldn’t she get bored by my thoughts on where I’ll do my next long run and which tights I’ll wear and why?

So I’ve stayed silent. Running has just been a part of my life that is important to me, but not something that I’ve shared with many people. But lately, I’ve been creating a different set of friends, a different sort of community. A best friend/lover who WANTS to hear about how my run went this morning. Roommates who don’t necessarily understand the why, but always ask and are curious about my running. Co-workers who ask everyday how my training is going and how long I’m going out for this weekend. I don’t know if any of them really understand it, but they all honor, respect, and love it.

The space that this encouragement has created in me is space that has made me realize how I get to clear my head when I run. Running is thinking for me. I run with myself, in the same way that I am learning how to sit with myself. To just be. To sit with, to run with, to think about all of the uncomfortable parts of life–and to honor them just as much as the things in my life that make me really fucking happy.

I want to continue all of this. To have space to talk to you and with myself not only about running, but about all of the things we think about when we allow ourselves the space to think.

And I also want to talk about running. About what I discover while I run. Because all of this makes me. The street harassment I face just about every time I go running, my queer and feminist perspective that helps me to name why stares and shouts make me so angry, the fact that I’m still trying to fully understand how my disability rights activism and ultrarunning completely fit together and possibly compliment each other, how running has helped me to heal from trauma but has also possibly prohibited me from healing in other ways, how some songs are still the best to sing to myself while running even if their meanings shift for me, how I want to make a statement with my long dreadlocks–that white women with dreads can run, how I want people to get over the fact that a white woman with dreads is running, the fact that I constantly worry about my body just suddenly breaking and what that means from a feminist, disability rights, and trauma-informed perspective.

These are the parts of me that I bring with me on every run.

Here is the space I have created to think more about them. To think about them with myself. To think about all of this with you.

Free-style Running

Free-style Running (Thanks to Karlee Miller for this picture from 2005)

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