My neighborhood is a hilly one.
Over the years, I’ve cursed those ups and downs.
The truth, though, is that each finish line I’ve crossed has been thanks to those hills and valleys.
I don’t remember the day I stopped running, but I remember why.
Life stopped me.
It was sprinting downhill ahead of me and, no matter how hard I tried to keep up, I couldn’t.
A week went by.
Then a month.
And another month until, one day, it felt like I was in a deep valley looking up a steep hill.
Sometimes, I’d stop and look at the pile of old spandex on the shelf and wonder, “how did I do it?”
But it didn’t matter. That part of my life was over.
I don’t remember the day I stopped running, but I remember the day I started again.
It was a dull winter morning.
Strangely, for the first time in months, I felt a twitch in my heels.
“Later maybe,” I said to myself, and turned on the TV.
The weather girl announced it was -7C with a windchill of -17C, and that a storm was on its way.
Not exactly a good day for a run.
I ate a donut, and thought about my options.
As I did, I felt an ache in my chest.
“Now.” I said to myself, and I went upstairs to battle the spandex.
I knew it would be cold, and I knew I wouldn’t get far.
I knew it would hurt.
Still, I laced up my shoes and opened the door.
It was a cold and windy 4km but, for the first time in a long time, I did some thinking.
I thought about finish lines I’d crossed.
I thought about the short ones, the long ones, the ultra-long ones and, tearfully, the last one.
Getting to them was never easy.
But I crossed them all.
My legs, surprisingly, chugged happily along as I worked my way around the neighborhood.
I looked at my feet and noticed my shoes.
They felt good.
They reminded me of dark, quiet mornings and long training runs.
Which reminded me of watching the sun rise over my sleepy city.
Which reminded me of count-the-buns runs.
My shoes reminded me of good things.
It was around this time when my lungs started to burn, and I realized I’d passed the valley.
It was time to push myself up the biggest hill in the neighborhood.
Once, I could sprint up that hill.
That day, it felt like I was crawling.
I felt the wind pick up as the storm closed in, and I could see my breath in front of me.
But to beat that storm, I was going to have to fight the pain and pick up my pace.
So, I did.
Some finish lines are crossed at a sprint, and others at a crawl.
But if you stop running, you can’t finish the race.
As for me, I don’t remember the day I stopped running because that day hasn’t come.
I’m still sprinting my way to the valleys, and fighting my way up the hills.
I’ll be wearing my running shoes.
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