Always Searching

I saw a movie last week, Your Name, that resonated with me very deeply.  Without giving too much away, this was an Anime film that had a strong theme of nostalgia, with a core line repeated by the main character of I always feel like I’m searching for someone, or some place.

Throughout the [gorgeous] film, I felt like I could relate strongly with how the main character felt.  Like him, I don’t experience strong wander lust; in fact, I have never even been outside of the United States, and that doesn’t bother me in the least.  However, I would say that my life is certainly consumed by always seeking ….something.  I’m not sure what it is, but I’m pretty sure I’ll know when I find it.

I’ve spent the better part of a week ruminating on what that means for me, and why I was affected so much by this film.  Side note:  I am not a movie person.  In fact, the last movie that I watched in theaters was Jurassic World, and I think my main motivation was that it seemed like a totally legitimate excuse to marathon the 3 other movies instead of going to lab.  I actually don’t like movies that much, because I have a pretty short attention span.  I had heard about Your Name on NPR while I was driving to Evansville two weeks ago, and I immediately knew I had to see it.  I’m not even much of an Anime fan.

For most of the week, I kept returning to the question I had in the back of mind:  what am I searching for?  

It wasn’t until this past weekend, as I driving to Eagle Creek for my last long run, that it even occurred to me that running played a role in my ill-defined search.  Ironically, it was Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness’s Swinging from the Firescape that brought me to that realization.  I actually don’t even like this song.  But for some reason the lyrics:

you’re  number one
you’re the reason I’m still
up at dawn 

jostled my memory:  running is the vehicle for my all-encompassing search.  I was doing a little research into the song, and this is what Andrew McMahon says about it, which also struck me as interesting vis a vis my life:

“Fire Escape” is a song full of mantra’s from a time filled with joy and achievement, chaos, insecurity and good friends.”

I have often wondered how I am able to train the way that I do, especially completely alone and with a coach who is 3 hours away.  I know I have said it before, but I don’t particularly love running.  I mean, I don’t know if I would run if I wasn’t a good runner.  Honestly, I think I would have kept looking for a sport or activity until I did find one that I excelled at.  The “up at dawn” portion of those lyrics reminds me of how I would wake up between 4 and 5 AM in grad school to train.

But why?

If you asked me right now why I run, I don’t know if I have a highly defined answer, which is somewhat strange for someone who is living on a shoe-string budget to train 90+ miles per week and regularly flies across the country [despite a paralyzing fear of flying] to do hard things.  Is my goal to be the best? to find my limits? to push myself in new ways?  to run in the Olympics?

This is what brings me back to the overwhelming feeling I have that there is more for me to accomplish.  What if I am able to train this way because deep down, I know it’s the way to find whatever – or whoever – I am searching for?  What if when I feel happy from a cellular level at the end of a 100+ mile week, it’s because my body knows something my mind doesn’t, and is trying to reward me as a way to push me to keep going and find new high mileage marks?

I honestly don’t know why I am a high mileage runner, other than the fact that I’m healthier at high mileage (for real, the higher I go the fewer aches and pains I have) and it makes me happy in the same way as a really good cup of coffee.  Yet, in my experience, the people I have met who love to train don’t also love to race, and I would certainly say that I wouldn’t train if I wasn’t racing.

I was asked recently if I feel more pressure now when I race, given sponsorship and a strong social media presence.  I used to have a lot of anxiety about racing when I was younger, but I don’t now.  I’m not afraid of failing in the way I once was.  For instance, right now there is the nervousness of knowing that I am, without a doubt, in the best shape of my life and I will feel sad if my race does not reflect that, but I don’t feel any additional pressure knowing that more people are interested in my race results than when I was in high school or college.

Among my friends and family, I often am voted most likely to believe in magic, which I feel like is kind of where this blog post headed.  I definitely have a strong imagination.  Just Saturday, I saw a leaf blowing across the side walk in front of me that looked like an animal I had never seen, which made me think for the next half mile I had just discovered an unknown species and would be featured in National Geographic.

But still, I can’t shake this feeling that there is more to be discovered, and maybe that is why I have no problem waking up at dawn, running mile after mile after mile, and completing long, solo track work.

Originally published on Going Big, or Going Home

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