At the end of my week off from running - a week that included all kinds of drinking, staying up hours past my bedtime and lots of Vegas time with 80 of my closest friends - I honestly began to question why it is such a part of my life.
I was relatively pain free. I had more time to do stuff that was, well, fun. Despite a lot of my running friends telling me it would drive me crazy to take so much time off, I honestly didn't miss it.
Still, I had worked too hard to throw it all away because a week off felt good, and I started throwing on my running gear last Tuesday, two days after my Vegas trip, more out of habit than actual desire.
I expected my body to protest a bit more than usual as I started up the same old hill from my driveway and into my tempo-run route, even if I'd be taking it easier than normal. But it was more like a handshake with a buddy, something I didn't have to think about too much, and as I began to breathe hard, the machine started pumping again with only a few hiccups.
Still, that day was not about breathing hard. It was about getting back into a groove, and so I eased off a bit. Whoa, Tiger, I thought to myself (and won't that phrase take on an entirely different meaning now, given the headlines these days?).
In fact, the mechanics were so familiar to me, I found myself thinking about the past weekend, Christmas, a few stories I needed to write at work and, yes, even a couple world affairs, albeit briefly. I thought about poker and whether I really did play well at those live sessions or whether I just got the cards to do so, and how often the cards really can make us believe how well or how poorly we played when the opposite might be true. I solved a sticky point in a story I'm writing for New Year's Day about a family who battled cancer and a car crash in one year. I felt refreshed after the run, and for the first time in more than a week, my mind was clear.
The next day, our running group held its annual Christmas lights run. It's exactly how it sounds: We run around Greeley and look at holiday lighting displays. We got to one of those houses where you wonder if the owner really is a Christmas vampire (which is about the only Vampire plot I can think of that hasn't been covered this year) who doesn't sleep and instead works on his house. He even sets his house to music via a computer program, and we begged a guy to roll down the window so we could hear the music on the radio and watch the lights.
About a dozen of us went on the run, and there was laughing through the snow, as we went o'er the hills and our spirits were bright. Some of my best friends, who I hadn't seen in more than a week, were there with me.
It was wonderful.
Today, on our last day in Winter Park, Colorado, my alarm beeped me awake at 6 a.m., and I snuck out of our condo (where we're staying, it's not OUR condo) for a getaway weekend.
It was a hilly start, and we're kinda high up here (I believe around 9,000 feet), so it was cold and I was breathing hard right away. Yet the best part about going up for two miles is you get to go back down, and after a slow climb, I found myself running free and easy.
The snow crunched under my shoes, smoke seemed to curl from my mouth as I panted and the trees were coated in winter's beauty as the sun rose, spilling pink light over millions of flakes.
I'm a touch tired and sore as I finish this, but running is much more than a way to work my body.
It's a time to reflect, a time to restore relationships and a time to rejoice.
God how I missed it so.