1,000 Miles: Month 5
Hills and altitude.
If I had to sum up the fifth month of 1,000 Miles, that would be it. Hills and altitude. There were a lot of both of them.
During the last month I was home in the US, so running meant taking on the hills in Forest Park in Portland (a reunion run for the 1,000 Miles trio), a thigh-burn inducing uphill climb by my parents’ house in Washington, and making my best attempt at emulating a mountain goat on trails around Telluride, Colorado.
Realization: I have much more training to do before I become a mountain goat.
My usual Paris running routine is… well… flat. Hills were hard work. I pushed up and down, knowing in my head that if I clocked enough hills I would inevitably become stronger over the month, and maybe even surprise myself when I came back to Paris.
Then came the high elevation of Colorado, which was humbling. You may be able to put in a 10-mile run every weekend, but take a trip to altitude and all of a sudden you are sucking in air like never before and taking breaks on the trail at frequencies that are, quite frankly, rather ridiculous. You question whether you can really call yourself a runner, or if you should start referring to yourself as a “run walker” instead.
But it’s good for you.
Month 5 was full of runs that were hard. Really hard. In fact, there were a few that I came back from less than ecstatic. I ran because I knew that if I didn’t run I would feel worse. And because everywhere I was, the trails were beautiful, and when there’s an opportunity for beauty, you seize it.
Then last week I returned to Paris, and I realized, while the streets were flat, I was up against a different kind of hill and altitude:the emotional kind. My first run back in town, I laced up my shoes and headed to the park, excited to see what a month of hilly running had done for me.
Early in the morning there were few people out, but the smell of freshly baked bread at the boulangerie wafted into the street. Then I turned a corner and was slammed with the heavy stench of urine. This is Paris, a city full of dichotomies. I dodged a few cars and made it to the park entrance.
I started the first lap and realized that I was tearing up.
Tearing up? On a run? Get it together Brones.
I thought about why I was crying and realized I had a negative thought on the brain: “I can’t believe I have to run the rest of these 1,000 miles by doing laps in this park.”
Actually I think there were a few words of profanity thrown in there, something along the lines of “these f*cking 1,000 miles by doing laps in this f*cking park.” I’m a lady that swears on occasion, especially when I am upset.
And I was upset, running and crying, a mixture of jet lag and homesickness setting in with full force. In that moment, I hated that park. I hated that city. I wanted to jump back on a plane immediately. I missed those hills and that hard elevation.
Knowing fully well that spending an entire run fuming wasn’t going to do me any good, I thought about what I could do with the moment and my emotions. What could I do? I could run through them.
So I ran, and when trying to appreciate the moment didn’t work, I thought about all the potential trips I could take for the rest of the year just so that I could find good trails. I thought of my holy Sunday runs in Bois de Boulogne, a taste of the countryside in Paris that I look forward to every week. My saving grace in an urban setting. I calmed down.
This is when you readers start to say, “but you live in Paris! You’re crying about living in Paris??”
I know, it sounds ridiculous. I am lucky to live in Paris. I try to acknowledge that every single day. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
Paris is hard. Being away from friends and family is hard.
But doing hard things, like moving to a new city, is like running hills; you have to embrace the pain, pull from your forces and push through. You have to let go of control. Feel the trail below your feet. Dig in. Calm your mind. Let your body do what you know it can do.
You know what happens when you do all of those things? You run through the hard spot and you feel better afterwards, physically and emotionally.
Running, like life, is a process. There may be a daily goal of a certain number of miles, but ultimately that small goal is only part of a bigger goal, be that running a certain race, running a certain time or maintaining a certain level of fitness. The difficult emotional moments that we pass through when we move or go through trying moments in our lives are also part of a bigger process. Lines on a page that are part of the bigger book containing our life story.
Hills and altitude. They make you a better runner, a stronger person. You can push through this.
That was my mantra as I ran park laps this morning through a downpour. My clothes were soaked and my ponytail a knotted mess. I ran hard. Because running hard is good for you. The rain washed away the last of the Colorado mud that was still caked to my shoes, and a little of my jet lag with it. A new day, a new page.
According to my phone, I ran my fastest 10k of this year.
Hills and altitude are good for you.
On to month 6.