Some people liken love to a lightning bolt. It hits you unexpectedly and without warning. The experience of 'falling in love' for some is a visceral feeling of losing yourself in someone or something else.
For me, love has always been more of a 'slow burn'. I don't know if I've ever experienced 'love at first sight'. The things (and people) I love in life in most cases have been an acquired taste.
Running was no different. I didn't fall head over heels for running at first. It was tough. It hurt. It handed me my ass many times. I can't say I was smitten right off the bat. Running was no easy lover.
While my body calloused over time, my heart did not. My affinity went from vague to intense. I came to love running like nothing else in life at a young age. It was there for me when I was sad. It was there for me when I was angry. It gave me hope when I struggled to find it on my own. It gave back to me what I put into it.
But, as is the case with most relationships of any length, ours is complex. Running hasn't always treated me as well as I would have liked. There are times when I've asked things of it that were unreasonable. The passion that brought us together waxes and wanes. We've even broken up a few times.
Our lengthiest hiatus was during college. But, even during this period, I would still flirt with her periodically by logging a few miles here or there. She was always on my mind and in my heart, just not always at the front of my mind (or my heart).
But, absence can make the heart grow fonder. After college, it occurred to me that maybe I never gave myself and running the shot we really deserved. A cathartic ten miler in the woods which easily could have been a one night stand served as a stark reminder that the passion was still there and we had miles left in our relationship.
From there, the marathon beckoned. It was a journey we had never taken together and it would either bring us together in perpetuity or perhaps end things between us forever. Fortunately, for both of us it was the former.
Since then we've notched a few more marathons, countless half marathons, numerous 5Ks, 10ks, relays, and just about everything in between. There is no question in my mind there are plenty of miles ahead as well.
Over time, I have come to realize that I am simply a much better person with running in my life than without it. I can only hope running is better with me in the mix than without it as well. I run because I love it.