On Speed // Queer Girl Running, Chapter 3
There's a certain kind of feeling that gets into my muscles and brain folds and nerve endings sometimes. Usually it happens during a tempo run, or a race, when it's supposed to; but sometimes it also happens on any random long run or Thursday morning getting-in-some-miles-before-work-but-cutting-it-close-with-the-distance-I'm-attempting recovery run.
It happens after that first slow mile, or maybe it happens right away, or maybe it happens only after I'm supposed to already be warmed up and tempo-ing but the hill I'm on is making me want to throw up a little and my quads and lungs scream desperately at me that today is not the day to push this and let's just fall behind it's ok to run alone in the dark and maybe I shouldn't have eaten quite so many tacos at 7:30pm before a 5:30am run.
It feels like sparks and then it feels like gliding and then it feels like burning and stretching and flying until my lungs feel inflated and my legs like they have their own consciousness and I'm not doing anything.
I've been running fast.
Well, "fast" is relative, but for me, I'm running much faster than I thought I could. I never expected to be able to sustain something faster than an 8:00 minute mile for more than one mile. Now I'm running double-digit miles at a sustained pace of less than that. I don't know how that happened, that shift in my own physical abilities, or how long it took. One day I just noticed: oh, look at that.
This kind of pattern isn't unusual for me. I doubt myself incessantly in many areas of my life. Then sometimes I do something, feel something- confidence, power- and it astonishes me.
Five years ago, just thinking about the word "lesbian," seeing it bolt like lightning across my internal thought cloud, felt fearful and impossible; it burned behind my eyes. I never expected of myself that I could feel differently, unashamed, proud of such a dark and shadowy piece of my identity. It would never happen, I would never sustain it; I would never move forward in space and time and feel myself shift and grow stronger and more powerful and be carried by my pumping heart through nights and mornings to a place where things looked different. Brighter. Bathed in light with so few shadows that I don't recognize the scene anymore. Oh, look at that.
Noticing surprising things about yourself makes it seem like you've moved through some part of life impossibly fast. When did that happen? I missed it.
In almost three months exactly, I will be standing in Eugene, Oregon, about to run 26.2 miles in a row for the first time in my life. Right now, at the end of my tempo runs, when I find that I once again managed to hold sub-8:00 speed; on my weekday recovery runs, when I find that I once again managed to get up even earlier to add two or four extra miles; on my sad days, when I find that I once again managed, despite whatever other weights I may be carrying, to feel proud of the literal and figurative miles I've put into my life so far- something strikes like lightning across my internal thought cloud. But it doesn't make my eyes burn. It doesn't feel ominous or dangerous. It's something I will be gripping onto during that looming race, especially in those dreaded final six miles, when the Wall looms.
I got this.