As I walked up the sidewalk, fiddling with my mp3 player as the daylight died behind the fall mountains, I felt the excitement. My legs wanted to run. After months of denying them the sluggish zombie turtle plod, they were ready to shamble along once more.
Yet I held back. I knew as much as my very muscles were itching for the burn, they were lazy and unpracticed; I needed to pace myself. So I forced myself into a brisk walk to the top of the hill, allowing myself to finally fall into strides as I turned onto the first street.
The first thing I felt was heavy. And I was heavy after all. Many, many pounds from my prepregnancy, running weight, very far from the body I had left behind. I felt the weight settling in my belly, at my sides, in my thighs; I felt the heft against my joints and pelvis. But that soon faded into the background, and it felt just like running. Extra slow running.
My mind was going wild in self-assessment. Does it feel the same? Am I doing ok? Am I dying? Do I still like this? I was like someone remembering how to walk, clumsy at first then slowly stumbling into muscle memory, my body taking over to remind me of what to do. As I felt my feet fall into a familiar rhythm and my arms swing at my side, I was overwhelmed by the familiar, a slow motion iteration of the hundreds of miles already behind me.
Though my legs ached to go faster, to push to the death and though my brains assaulted me with reminders of how fat I was, how far I had to go, I restrained; I paced; I allowed myself to take it the slightest bit easy to gauge where I actually was as I reentered the trail. I silenced the self-depreciating thoughts swelling up around me and permitted myself one aggressive thought: “Run, fatty, run.”
I dropped into the park and was reminded that I was returning to running in the best season. The trees lining the lake alternated in bright yellow and green and reflected in the water in the growing twilight. I felt an edge in the air I sucked into my lungs in my amateurish gasps.
It was fall, and fall is my favorite time to run.
Small pains began to send flares over the periphery of my brain. The sciatic area on my left side, where my son’s head drilled down and where my partner dug his fingers through every excruciating unanesthetized contraction, vibrated with every stride. I felt the phantom pressure of his tiny head; I felt the lingering memories of labor. My pelvis itself felt loose; my core muscles failed to contain me or my new weight. Yet I just registered the sensations and ran on.
I withdrew my attention from monitoring my muscles and my breathing and my fatigue and focused on plunging headlong into the euphoria I was here for. As fat as I was and as slow as I was now moving, I was still out on the trail; I was still back to running. Most importantly, I was getting back on track.
A track that hopefully included both weight loss and sanity.
I went around lake, feeling like a slower version of my turtle self, dogging it up the hills but feel refreshed on the decline. All familiar sensations and patterns. I was inundated with flashbacks of learning to run at altitude on this very route. Somehow, I felt I was doing better this time, but that might have been wishful thinking.
As I began to ascend the hill to go back, I made a fatal error. As a car approached, I stopped running, waiting to cross the street. That momentarily lapse flooded my legs with acid. No matter how I tried to return to my sluggish pace up the hill, my muscles failed me. Against all my will, I was forced to walk the block up the hill before returning to a jog.
Yet I managed to run out the remainder of the route and even mustered a sloppy sprint at the end. All told, I ran about two miles and walked an additional 3/4 mile. Infancy compared to where I abandoned running, but it is a start. In all honesty, I have had more brutal and unpleasant runs at the height of my fitness, so this tiny run gave me hope. It inspired me to get back to it and keep going once more.