Running has always been something I was good at. Not good as in I’m fast and winning, good as in I will do it regularly and I like it.

Running makes me feel powerful, capable. Unique. The way I love it is a different way than the way I love yoga. Yoga is a challenge, it takes thought and concentration. Running is freedom. It’s one foot in front of the other, don’t fall flat on your face when you trip, alone in the woods time to settle and burn off anxiety/whatever needs digesting.

I remember being on a long run one Saturday and I’d been churning my thoughts in silence for about two hours. I actually started the though loop over and reprimanded myself “We’ve already been through this! Enough already!” and then I had a good laugh at myself. Many of my long runs I did in silence: no music, no podcast. Just me and my thoughts, and the woods. My breath, my feet. I work things out there- life troubles and puzzles that consistently need attention. It’s my sanity, where I clean things up, sort them out, and come back to the world a better person than when I left for my run.

Running is where I taught myself how to pay attention to my body, to my breath. Running is where I got curious about the way I move, the way I breathe. I would spend entire runs thinking about my breath, or my feet, how my hips are moving, my shoulders, where my eyes are looking. I’ve spent hours teaching myself to look with my eyes not with my head. Concentrating on expending the proper amount of energy: am I clenching my jaw? making fists when my hands can be loose? are my strides too long and stompy? am I holding my breath, drinking enough water? do I need to eat now before I start to crash a little?

I had to learn to pee in the woods. I have a hard time peeing in public, so getting my entire bottom half out where someone could come upon me at any moment while I’m squatting down balanced in the way women have to do to not get pee on their shoes..it took a long time to relax enough to be able to actually go. I’d find a good spot and then squat there endlessly, butt hanging out, nothing would happen and I’d have to give up, only to have to pee as soon as I restarted running. It took a few years but I did it, now I know my instructions: I like to have the tree behind me, and that I need a branch or something to hold on to so I feel steady.

Being a distance runner taught me so much about my self.

I’m registered for my longest trail race yet in April. 50K. I have been imagining myself as an ultramarathoner- running trails for hours, bragging rights. I’ve been planning to run a 50 miler for my 50th birthday in 2021.

But my hip has other plans. I can’t take the jarring of miles of running without a lot of pain. I can barely walk sometimes, the other day my friend was like “You’re limping!” and I said “Yep.” When I asked my orthopedist about doing a 50K in April he said “I don’t think so, maybe just shorter distances after you build some strength in your core and hip. Let’s get a few more years out of that hip. Hip replacements usually happen at 74, not 47.”

I have arthritis. It’s bad. Running makes it much worse.

Truthfully, I’m devastated. I haven’t really said that to anyone because the way I run sounds like torture for most people. Running up and down mountains for 4 hours straight isn’t something that sounds fun, except to people who do it for fun. When I tell someone I’m losing something I love and they act like I was crazy for even loving it in the first place, well.. it sucks.

So don’t try to make me feel better yet. I am in a period of mourning, of loss. Doing impossible things the hard way is kind of how I operate, and trail running gave me that, relentlessly, over and over, as many times as I asked. It never let me down, it always made me feel better for doing it, even when it was heartbreaking and hard and I wanted to die. It was mine. It made me proud of me, and strong from the inside out. The look on my face in the picture up there says it all, that sweet smile, all for the woods and myself.