Identity shift? Or just new shoes?

I’m beginning to wonder if the time has come to change my identity…or part of it, anyway. I have run more or less continuously since 1995. In the beginning I only managed a couple of miles a few times a week. I ran on the gorgeous streets of Cherry Creek, in Denver. My baby, Detta, ran along before and behind me in the center of the road in the grass. She never had much stamina, and in truth I don’t think she actually enjoyed running with me, but she was my constant companion in those days – both running and otherwise. We ran a few months in South Carolina, where an unleashed dog was not the biggest threat, but the oppressive heat and humidity.

I ran without her a few months in Italia – and let me tell you that was lonely. Once she joined me she and I ran many kilometers late at night in the streets of Milano, in Citta Studi. We were on nodding terms with many of the regular working ladies who lined the streets. We ran at night because of the pollution – running even early in the morning meant that I was coughing and hacking for half an hour afterwards, not to mention that when I washed my face the soap came away black. We also spent a lot of time at the park where Detta made friends with the locals.

Detta (far right) and her crew

After my motorcycle accident, I was up on my feet in 9 days and running by the end of the first month. I was quite a bit slower – but ecstatic after finishing my first 2 miles. I never did get to run in Cairo…but mostly I was ok with that. I came back to the states and the ridiculous heat of Georgia. My milage was up to 4 or 5 miles at a time, but I was nearly crippled the day after every run, my hips and lower back aching and sore. About year later I started training for a marathon. I wanted to go somewhere with my running and that seemed like a good idea. Once I got up to 10 mile runs, that nasty crippling bit was back again, and I would have to lift myself out of chairs and walked with a limp for a couple of days after each run. I got insurance then and the wonderful world of orthotics opened to me. I think each pair has gotten better at relieving my running pains, but even the first set stopped the hip pain right away. I didn’t make it to the marathon that year, but it was the first year I began to call myself a runner. Or maybe other people began to call me one.

Something changed that year for me, in those long hours of running. It wasn’t just the mythical “runner’s high,” something I don’t believe I’ve ever felt, although I do feel good after running. And it wasn’t just about the run giving me time to think, or the cheerful music I listened to. Somehow that year it became part of my identity. Unfortunately, several times in the last couple of years I’ve considered the correlation between my runs and my migraines. Sometimes getting out for a short, slow run actually seems to lessen a migraine, but more often these days I wonder if running is increasing them. Every few months I keep close track of the run/migraine correlation, and it doesn’t seem especially high, but I know that running creates other problems in my hips and shoulders, so it follows that it could be increasing them. So what? you might ask. Give it up! Who cares about running, anyway?

Running helps me stay in balance, helps me let go of the stories of trauma I hear most days. Running is an outlet for big emotions and a way to turn off my thoughts for a time. Running helps keep me present and reminds me the present is all there is. Running reminds me of how good my body is to me, how well it works and how pleased I am with it in general. It also provides me with an opportunity to listen to great music without interruption of any kind. And to just be without interruptions of any kind. On top of all that, if I stopped running, even for a very good reason like less migraines, I’d have to stop calling myself a runner. I like calling myself a runner. I like thinking of myself as a runner. I like feeling like a runner. And I don’t want to give it up. More migraines? Must be my shoes. I just got a new pair – I’ll let you know how I do in them.

My brand of choice - Saucony

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