(I originally posted this to my other site on April 8, 2018)

My relationship with running has had its ups and downs since my kidney donation back in May of 2017. I was jogging only 17 days after surgery and ran a half marathon I was pretty happy with that November, but it just wasn’t the same. I was happy to be out there and with my running friends, but it felt like I was swimming upstream the whole time.

After the half marathon in November, I decided I was going to take a break from it until I felt in my heart that I wanted to run again.

That feeling didn’t happen for a while. There were times I wondered if it would ever come.

I would still do what I like to call a ‘maintenance run’ once or twice a week, and those were often as short as 2 miles. Those runs felt okay but didn’t light my soul on fire. At all.

Instead, I focused more on yoga and some light weight lifting.

Then a few weeks ago things started to shift for me. It became official that I am moving to Colorado (in 32 days – not that I’m counting) and that created a spark.

Running has been an amazing social catalyst for me over the years, and a lot of my closest friends here in Wisconsin are runners. When I picture my ideal lifestyle in Colorado, trail running is a big part of that. Having that reality right around the corner for me was the push I needed to get back into running more frequently.

My workouts over the last three weeks have been fueled by a bigger purpose than just fitness, which has made me appreciate them and look forward to them in a way I haven’t had in more than a year.

Then yesterday’s run happened.

I think I touched heaven.

Yesterday’s run was the kind of run that I always dream of. The kind of run where I am floating, I am strong and I felt like I could go on forever.

It was a group run and was VERY unseasonably cold for April. A friend and I peeled off from the group around the 5-mile mark and made our own way back to the start. I wanted to hit up a favorite bike path and take that route back, estimating we’d be in for about a 9 mile run total. It was cold enough that I didn’t want to move my jacket sleeve to see what mile we were on or what pace we were at along the way.

We talked, laughed, had periods of silence. All the while I was soaking up Madison’s beauty, reminiscing silently about all the memories I have sprinkled across this city from almost 30 years of living here and was amazed at how strong my entire body felt. The birds sang, my Garmin buzzed on my wrist mile after mile, and I kept on smiling. I couldn’t even stop it – I was feeling such intense joy out there.

I thought about my kidney recipient and how much better of a life she has now, I thought about my small scars under my layers of running clothes that quietly tell the story of my journey from the last year, and I thought about the fire I felt in my soul. The fire that has pushed me from 1 1/2 mile races in middle school, to painful, hungover 5k’s in college, to my three-person Ragnar relay, to my first 50 mile trail race, to pounding the pavement at the Athens Marathon with tears streaming down my face twice because the entire experience was so beautiful.

Running has been the friend that has been with me through it all, the thing that has shown me the deepest parts of my self, comforted me in my hardest heartbreaks and celebrated with me in my most joyous moments. Yesterday’s run felt like a reunion with an old friend, the kind of friend that you fall out of touch with for a while and can jump right back into your bond like no time has passed.

And yet the dynamic is different this time. I am running and growing in the sport again because I want to. I choose to. I’m not doing this because I feel like I need to prove something, and I’m not trying to escape anything.

My time off for my kidney donation has allowed me to take time to deconstruct and rebuild my life. I consciously rebuilt my social landscape, changed my relationship with how I approach my work and took time to explore other ways to challenge myself athletically.

It’s as if I broke up with running for a while to date a bunch of other sports. And now I’m back, and my love for running is stronger, healthier, and filled with a lot more grace than it ever has been before.

Running, we’re back together again, and oh the places we’ll go.

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