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My Trail Running Valentine

It’s not you, it’s me. To be more specific, it’s my temperamental Achilles tendon. And lately, my tendon needs some space. 

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It’s not you, it’s me. 

To be more specific, it’s my temperamental Achilles tendon. And lately, my tendon needs some space. 

All relationships are marked by ups and downs, and ours, especially so. 

I’ve been in love with trail running for many years. And not just any love, but the 80’s rom-com-standing-outside-with-a-boombox-in-the-rain type of love. Which is to say, an inappropriate amount of love directed at an amorphous concept that has no ability whatsoever to love me back (We all have a type). 

I wish it was a mature, candle-lit dinner a la Nicholas Sparks. But it’s not. It’s not always 100 percent healthy, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Our relationship can be a bit of a roller coaster. Through broken bones, stitches and a whole host of itis-es, my love has never wavered. 

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The trails could be considered my longest-running (forgive me) relationship. I’ve given as much of myself to the sport as is possible, and certainly far more than is socially acceptable. While I like to think I’m kind and generous in human relationships, I’ve never tracked my affection volume through an app, calculated the number of carbs required for a third date or coated my  between-the-toe skin in lube for a person (the sheer amount of lube required to sustain this relationship would make the uninitiated blush).  All that irrational care has been dedicated to running.

I’ve spent more time swiping through topo maps than Tinder, trying to find the perfect match for a weekend tryst. I’ve never spent as much time or thought getting ready for a date as I have for an alpine start. I don’t need a heart-rate monitor to tell me how you make my pulse race. 

What’s even better is how many other loves running has brought into my life. Friends, partners – an entire community of people who share my love for something heartbreakingly pointless. I’m grateful that running has taught me to know and care for myself, somewhere between long miles on pristine alpine single track and long minutes on the foam roller. Loving running has taught me to raise the game on how I show up for myself and others, reminding me that I owe myself, and everyone, at least the same tenderness, care and attention I show a tight plantar. 

my running valentine
The author runs near her home in Colorado. (Photo: Courtesy Zoë Rom)

I do hope we grow old together, trail running and I. But I also know that the inevitable conclusion of our relationship is that someday (if I’m lucky) my run will slow to a walk, and our relationship will be all but unrecognizable to outsiders. And that’s okay, because it was only ever for us, anyway. The fact that no day with running is guaranteed is what makes our connection beautiful. I hope I’m grateful for more of the days – and runs – than I take for granted. 

Through all the heartbreak and disappointment, our love is worth it. It’s worth the black toenails and quasi-permanent sunburn, and it’s worth having geriatric ankle joints. Our love is worth the 4 a.m. wake-ups and finding a partially consumed GU in nearly every load of laundry.  It’s almost worth all the foam rolling. 

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To quote Kara Goucher, “Nothing in my life has ever broken my heart the way running has. And yet I cannot breathe without it.”

Even when you break my heart with injuries, setbacks, plateaus and days that make me question all the training decisions I’ve ever made, I know you’ll be there for me, in one way or another. The only given is that things will change, and only one will be constant: I’ll still be hopelessly, irrationally, in love with you.