But I thought I hated it……

I really hated running. Every step I would run I would be reciting a mental mantra of “I hate this. I really hate this. I haven’t even run a minute? How can that be? How am I ever going to finish? I’d look like an idiot if I stopped now. Do I care if I look like an idiot? Why do I keep doing this to myself?” Those thoughts kept me occupied and if I hung in there, I usually would meet my goal for the day. I went from where a minute seemed to be a day to where I could run a 30-minute span and say “Yes!” While I never got that “runner’s high” others have talked about, there were moments of pleasure and accomplishment. But still, progress or not, overall I hated it.

So why did tears come to my eyes when they told me I couldn’t run anymore? I always would have thought that if someone told me that there would be tears of joy, but they weren’t. It made me sad. It frustrated me. I felt regret. Why is that?

Running brought good things to my life. I got to spend good quality hang-out time with friends. We had long conversations as we tried to build our bodies up, and in the process stayed in touch with each other’s lives. We wore tutus, were chased by zombies and rolled in the mud. I lost weight. I learned that time invested eventually paid off….but could be lost if not maintained. Running was an exercise I could do in my own neighborhood, or even on the treadmill in my own house. Running required good shoes, but little else in the way of equipment. It did the job and made it easy. Once I got a treadmill, I really had few excuses as to why I couldn’t do it. (Don’t worry…..I developed some good ones. I am creative!)

But the biggest impact running had on my life was the work it did on my brain. While my mind ran that tape of negative messages, the actual run negated them. Running reminded me that my mind can be my enemy. It is often a liar. My mind tells me I can’t do things that I later prove that I can. It tells me that I’m not good enough, don’t have what it takes to succeed, that I am not athletic and that is something you are born with….or not (I, of course, was a not). My brain tells me obstacles are insurmountable. It tells me that I am all I ever can be….that I won’t get better and if anything I will regress. My mind doesn’t always respect me, and yes, I would say that it even hates me sometimes.

The truth is that we’re more amazing than the limits of our mind. You’ve heard the saying “What the mind can conceive, you can achieve.” Another lie. We can achieve so much more than we ever can imagine.

A lot of us have minds full of negative messaging. I think some is innate. The biology predisposes us to think in a certain way. Think of depression. Think of our attitudes after a sleepless night. Think of the hormones of adolescence. We were a bit crazy at that time, for no apparent reason. I remember coming home from a perfectly good day if school, going to my bedroom and crying my eyes out, while thinking “Why am I doing this? Nothing is wrong!” I kept it to myself, but had I asked someone like the adult me, I would have gotten an explanation.

Some of us have spent a lifetime receiving negative messaging from those around us. Some mean to say negative things about us, yes, but the vast majority don’t. Or do, but wouldn’t if they knew the impact they really have one us. (Though never discount that there are some people out there who are either mean and/or unbalanced. They come with no rational explanation.) Sometimes we interpret subtext that isn’t there. Sometimes we bear the brunt of their own issues…they feel bad about themselves and want us right there with them. Sometimes they think they know us, know our potential, know our character, and know our weaknesses. They may know something about us, but nobody ever knows everything about us. We forget they are only human, and their judgments, like our own, are limited. Some may be based on truth, but not the whole truth.

Running showed me I could do something that I thought was impossible. I remember the first time someone called me a runner. It was a casual reference they made to someone else, which made it all the more special. It wasn’t pandering to me. That is how he thought of me. He saw me run, no matter the quality, and to him I was a runner.
I also did have the naysayers (or nay thinkers). Friends who would make veiled comments about my lack of potential. I finally got so I would say to myself “Yeah, I used to think it was impossible for me, too.” Once again, their issues, their opinions….not necessarily truth. But for every one of them, there were probably five who said “Of course you can.”

I never wanted to be a runner of any great caliber. I liked it simply because it was fast and efficient and effective exercise. I ran worse in the few races I ran in than I would run on my own. My best running was in private. I liked the runs I would do in my own neighborhood . I found people would often discourage or intimidate me more than motivate me (this was not their fault, but once again the fault of my warped mind). It was in my neighborhood, all by myself, that I first ran for thirty minutes without stopping. It was my neighborhood that I built a personal routine focused on improvement. It was in my neighborhood that I celebrated most of my victories, alone and quietly. It was in my neighborhood that I could throw shoes on, go outside, and start fighting to win the battle in my mind. It was in my neighborhood that I could quiet myself the best and actually acknowledge the humorous mental battle I had going on in my head.

My body has been incredibly healthy all of my life. I’ve never gotten a stitch, never broken a bone, never had an injury that made me have to do more than limit activity for a day or two. When I started to have problems with my knees, I never thought it was anything serious. But when the pain got worse, and the x-ray showed the damage was not something that would heal and go away, I was told running would lead to a definite knee surgery. Therefore, no running in my future, since I am surgery adverse. There are many other exercise alternatives certainly, but it will take a while to find something that will give my body a quick and sufficient workout as effective as running, So I mourn a bit.

The news that running was not part of my future was grim. I will miss it, even though it was such a hated activity in my life. Currently I am undergoing physical therapy, to strengthen the muscles in my legs so they can support the bum knees for a long time to come. I know I will be able to hike and kayak and do many of the other things that I really love (but which haven’t brought as much instant gratification in weight loss!) I will learn ways to strengthen the rest of my body. There are many, many possibilities….some which I suspect I will enjoy more than I ever enjoyed running. I’ll find something that will again test my brain in its life-long conviction that I cannot do athletic things.

But the lessons I learned, I carry with me. No one knows my full potential but God…..not me, not the “experts”, not the people around me. As long as I live there will be tests to show me how to get better at all of the different areas of my life. Most of these will require I exercise (or is it “exorcize”) my mind. I could do as some running friends have suggested and just ignore the views of the medical professionals and continue running (some actually said “Knee surgery isn’t that bad”), but there are times you ignore the experts and times you listen and re-adjust as a result of their wisdom. God nudges us sometimes to head in a different direction, and I have experienced that enough in my life to know sometimes heading in another direction is best, even if I don’t always understand why. So I may not be running, but the adventure continues. Good things are ahead. My feet…and my knees… will still be taking me places I have never been before. Hopefully for a long time to come, because I intend to enjoy the journey.

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