After the ebullience fades to a warm, muscular fire.
After feeling has returned to my fingers and toes,
Long after I have swallowed the tears that rise like mountains from the deepest pits of mile 15
Long after I stopped giving kids high fives and smiling at jokes
After weeks and weeks of hot, cold wet dark solo group short long distances
After weeks of hills and tempos and chaffing and smug swagger that dies
After the starting line that opens every day at every run
After every gel packet that passes for food is choked down
After water leaks onto my tights and freezes there
And after I stop wondering if that can cause frostbite,
After I stop worrying irrationally somewhere between mile 18 and 20
That I will have to have all or part of my thigh amputated because of that,
After I ask myself, “is it normal for my face to tingle like that?”
After the pure arrogance of the first miles and the pure humility of the last
After all the faces of people I know have blurred across my sight line
After I strip down and warm up and stretch and slump
After a sleepless night of tight and sore limbs
And a morning spent limping for coffee
After I ask myself again why I do this
I remember that once, I could not run
That every mile I run is a gift
A gift I’ve been given and a gift I give myself
Because then I remember I am strong and I am able and I can do hard things
And if I ever stop wanting to kick the mountain in the teeth, I will be less than a shell.
Running these ridiculous races is like giving birth: push and pulll, excitement and effort
Running these ridiculous races is birth: birth to my stronger self, to the absolute core of me, solid and steely and unmoved.
Running these races…like birth: we forget, so soon, the pain.
We want another