I ran my first track race tonight since January, when I was diagnosed with blood clots in my legs and lungs. I spent most of the day anxious about it, because I wanted to get this race over with and get through it without any problems. I went to the bathroom about six times today before heading to the track meet, and then another three times before the race while I was warming up. I wiped myself so many times today my ass got raw. Does that ever happen to you? I’ve always been interested in how our anxiety and nervousness—what we perceive in our brains—has physical manifestations. I tell myself to relax, yet I still have to poop.
I’m still taking Xarelto, an anticoagulant to prevent clots, so I knew that I should be protected, but given how much pain I had during my last mile race on the track in January and how that calf pain led to chest pain a few hours later, I was still nervous. I don’t want to ever experience that again. But I had to get back on the horse. If not today, then someday. Today was as good as any. I’ve done a handful of interval workouts and have felt good during all of them, so I was confident that my body is ready to handle the intensity of the mile. We all have to get back on the horse at some point. We can’t live in fear forever.
I’ve been running by myself so much lately that it feels weird to be around people at a track meet. You can’t hide at a track meet. People can see every step of your race. Even though I was surrounded by other runners tonight, I felt like I was alone in the race, running away from the blood clots and toward a freedom that I wanted to taste again.
No matter how many people we are surrounded by, life is, ultimately, lived alone, in the light and dark spaces inside of us. No matter how close we get to someone—a parent, a child, a spouse—we can never know them fully. We can never know another person the way we know ourselves. We can never be as comfortable—or as uncomfortable—with another person as we are with ourselves. No one can experience what I or you experience in the way that I or you experience it. When we get right down to it, the most important things in life, the ones during which we discover who we really are and what we can accomplish, are done alone.
I got through the race, running a mile in 5:27. I didn’t feel very sharp and didn’t have a kick over the final lap, but I didn’t expect to given that I haven’t done any anaerobic training yet. It was much slower than the 5:11 I ran last year, and much slower than my lifetime best of 4:45. But I don’t care much about the time on the clock. I’m just glad I got through it without a problem. There was a time in my life when I would be embarrassed to tell people my time in a race unless I ran fast. But I don’t care about that anymore. Every runner wants to be faster, no matter how fast he or she is. I want to be faster. But I will take this 5:27 and wear it proudly because tonight was about overcoming my fear of the intensity of the race and how my body would react to it.
And now that this race is behind me, I can train to get faster.