The other night I had one of the sweetest dreams ever, at least for me. I dreamed that I was running effortlessly, like I used to way back when I was a teenager. Back then, I would read The Runner every month, soaking up the stories of Eamonn Coughlan (way back before Ryan Hall), Mary Decker Slaney Tabb Whatever, and I would dream of Gore-tex running wear. Back then my heroes were Joan Benoit Samuelson and Grete Waitz, those wonderful women marathoners who made my sport as much for women as it always was for men. Come to think of it, they are still my heroes and likely always will be.
Running back then was a transcendental experience for me, when my body was working so hard that I would almost lose sight of the body at all and feel as if I were just mind. It was something I was good at, but only for myself. Except for my first season on a cross country team when I was in 4th grade, I didn’t run races, I just ran. Late at night, we would run, my sister, my sisters, and I, and afterwards, we would eat pizza. Or sometimes before. Running at midnight, because I never slept and my sisters worked at a movie theater. It was the best part of my day, almost always.
Although I can look back and know that I had some talent at it, I never thought of it as something I could do professionally. I knew there were professional runners. I knew that I could run farther and faster than most people and I loved that. I loved knowing that any distance someone told me to do, I could run. But it was mine, all mine and I didn’t want anyone else telling me how or when to run. In fact, I so much didn’t want anyone else to tell me when to run that the few times I ran with a group, I would drop out.
The dream, though, that dream that just won’t leave my mind, it was the sweetest dream. It reminded me of why I love to run, the freedom of the run. In it, I was running like I did when I was younger, but I was not younger. I was me, the same age I am now, with all the same issues I have now, but that run was pure joy, fast and free, running on the UF campus.
Of course, it got messed up. Someone was throwing pebbles at me, and I threw a rock back, then turned to see if they were okay just as someone else walked by and accused me of stopping because of the upcoming hill. I became aware of the hill, which was steeper than any hill in Florida, and I had to grab the pavement with my hands, it was so steep. But even with all that, I found my stride again and made it up the hill, strong and confident. I always did love hills.
I loved that dream, every single part of it. Even the distractions.
I still love running, but I often rail against how slow I have gotten and forget to enjoy the run anyway. I push myself to get the distance and forget to be light on my feet. That dream reminded me that those are the things I need to focus on, the freedom, the enjoyment, the lightness. Those are what I have been focussing on lately. The rest will come as it comes.