I have often read different blogs comparing running and life. Lately, I have keenly felt the comparison. The other day , I was running from my house down past the schools. I felt completely in a groove; running felt effortless. Then the road flattened out and the run felt tougher. I hadn't even realized I was running downhill until it flattened out.
It hit me that one minute you're cruising along in life and everything is good and then it levels out and it seems just that much harder. Even when life is going along without too many ups and downs, it can seem tough, especially after a particularly easy time (i.e. vacation).
Once you get your rhythm on the flats, you eventually hit the uphill (because what goes down must come up). We all know how hard the hills can be. Your legs burn, your lungs burn. All you really want to do is turn around or stop completely. And hills, up or down, really work those leg muscles.
Often, when you run up hills, as much as it hurts, there is a certain kind of satisfaction in getting to the top. You climb and climb and the feeling when you crest the top is sometimes even euphoric. One of my favorite races was the La Jolla Half Marathon, which is known for its hilly course, in particular, the Torrey Pines hill. When I reached the top of Torrey Pines, I let out a cheer with other runners around me. I heard of one runner, on the other hand, who hailed the ditch bus as soon as she reached the top. It was all too much. For me, I am very proud of that race and how well I did on the hills. I am proud of the metaphorical hills I have climbed in life, as well. Getting my Master's Degree, climbing the corporate ladder and motherhood are examples of some of the hills in my life that I am proud of.
Sometimes, however, there are hills that are really, really tough. When you get to the top, you don't feel pride, you just feel relief. There is no ditch bus and there is no one you can call to pick you up. I found such a hill Sunday. I started running up the hill thinking, "holy cow... this is one steep hill." I thought the top was at the next traffic light. When I got to the light, it leveled for that street and then headed up again. It seemed to have no end! When I finally reached the top and was able to run downhill, there was no "groove" or fun in the run. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other to make it home. When the road headed up again, it was tougher than before. The hill wouldn't have been so hard if I hadn't just run over seven miles (most of which were flat or gradual uphill). The good news is that I did make it home and was no worse for the wear afterward.
That is how my life has seemed for much of this year. My family has struggled quite a bit. Just when we thought that things were leveling off, the road continued upward. It didn't seem to have an end. When the hard part ended, I didn't feel triumph, only relief. There was no payoff of a downhill section, just a leveling off of the road. And now I move forward tentatively... waiting for that next hill to take the wind out of my sails.
Throughout my life, I have had long stretches of downhill and flat terrain. An occasionally roller only helps you to get the momentum for the downhills. My very favorite race was the Carlsbad Half Marathon (which happens to be my PR). It is not super flat, but a series of rollers. In that race, the uphill portions didn't slow me down. In fact, they helped my determination and focus. The downhills gave me "free speed." Short downhills are actually easier than the long ones-- they don't kill your quads. I hope that this next chapter of my life is full of rolling hills, just like that race. It keeps the scenery changing and the run more fun.
May you all have a life of gentle rolling hills with some fun "free speed" along the way. *wink*