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(Not) Outrunning Depression

Running is a matter of will. People will tell you about the sheer mental strength it can take to keep putting one foot in front of the other near the finish of an ultra, a marathon, or hell, for some people, even a 5k. But the truth is, every time you step out that door involves a lot of unseen effort. Running hurts. Prepping yourself to endure pain takes a special kind of metal. And inflicting it on yourself, day after day… It’s tough. Sometimes trying to break through that can be too much.

The funny thing about running is sometimes the way it bites back is gonna keep you from getting out there, and sometimes it’s the whole reason you’re looking forward to it. A couple of years ago, when I was just starting to train for my first marathon, I was going through a rough patch at work where it looked like a lot of us might get fired. The mistakes had already been made (by someone else), and the decision was out of our hands. We just had to wait for the ax to fall, and keep grinding away at our jobs as though nothing was happening until it did. Meanwhile I was trying to double my training distance (stupidly) in about a month. Every single run was ending in a desperate slog of teeth gritting pain. But I started craving it. When you get out there, and you push like that, you just can’t worry about the other shit going on in your life. At a certain point on the trail, the only thing you’ve got left is your forward momentum. Everything else just goes away, because there’s no room left for it. And at times like that, when you need to escape all the other shit going on, it doesn’t matter that it hurts to get there. It’s freedom.

But that’s not where I am right now.  There aren’t many people out there reading this blog at the moment, but those of you who do have probably noticed I’ve barely posted in the last few months, jsut scraping together a race report here and there, and even posting those well after the race itself happened. The truth is I haven’t felt much like writing about running lately. Or even going out and actually running at all. Someone important to me is dying in a slow, ugly, and embarrassing way. But they’re not quite gone yet, even though in a lot of ways the only part of the person I cared about left is the part on the official hospital forms declaring them still alive. Until that status flips over though, it’s hard to finish the grieving process. We’re all sort of trapped in that middle ground, and it’s been eating away at me. You can fight against angst or dread, but that dark kinda depression that just sits there, with no indication of when the clouds might part takes away the very tools you use to fight with. You energy craters, your motivation drops, and you’re not pushing back anymore. Any fight you’ve got usually ends up devoted just to living out your day.

Sometimes I think back to those earlier rough times, when running helped me, and there’s a distant voice telling me that maybe that’s what I need to get back to. But it takes a lot of effort to run. And most days, lately, I just can’t find that part of me. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.