When we first met in South Africa in 2006, I couldn’t fathom how much you’d impact my life in the years to come.
We had a rough start. Our first dates didn’t go well. In fact, I downright hated you.
I hated how you gave me a racing heart and a head so hot; it felt like exploding after spending only 10 minutes together.
I hated how you left me breathless, how my legs ached. How stiffness and pain reminded me of our date long after we parted.
And yet, I did come back. Day after day. Again and again.
But not because I loved you, running.
I came back because I wanted to lose weight. You were just a means to an end.
I needed you, but I didn’t want you.
At least, at first.
Since we spend almost every morning together, I had a lot of time to get to know you better. And slowly, I grew more comfortable with you.
I don’t remember the exact day I realized I had a crush on you. I think at first I didn’t want to admit it – even to myself.
Like a teen secretly in love, I tried to hide my growing love for you. When shopping with my guest family, I sneaked along the newspaper shelves to spot any running magazines. I wouldn’t tell people that the reason I got to bed at 09:00 pm on a Saturday was that we had a date on Sunday morning. In fact, I never talked about you at all.
With time my love grew. Our relationship matured. I learned your language and I learned to respect you. I asked questions, and most importantly, listened.
You never made it easy for me, though. You taught me to respect you and honor your principles by showing me promptly when I wanted too much of your time, too soon. When I tried to progress our relationship too quickly. When I was too clingy.
It was then when you rewarded me with ankle pain, knee pain, lead-heavy legs, and mental exhaustion.
Of course, I tried to blame you.
I wanted to be smarter and tougher than you. I wanted to prove myself against you. I tried to outrun the pain.
But I could not win this fight.
Every time I tried to outrun an inflamed ankle, a personal hurt, my anxious mind, you showed me deeper bruises I would need to attend to.
That’s how you taught me patience and grace.
You gave me tough love to show me how strong I can be. You taught me how to dance between fear and bravery. You taught me how to feel and to allow myself to feel every emotion.
When I am with you is when I feel alive.
I also need to apologize, running.
I apologize that I pushed you away when I was struggling to eat. I apologize that I let myself become too weak to keep our relationship strong. That I couldn’t show up for you the way you showed up for me.
And I thank you that you gladly welcomed me back once I felt better. That you reward me with always being there for me, listening. That you continue to teach me. You always remind me that I need to take care of myself if I want this relationship to last.
Running, I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.
You helped me get over my fear of people. You showed me how to develop strength and a brave heart. I have grown because of you.
Today, running, I don’t need you anymore. But, I want you.