Isaac spent the night with my friend Kate’s little boy a couple of weekends ago, and when she brought them to church the next day, she told me that Isaac had gotten up, along with her little boy, at 3:00 in the morning to “do his night creeping,” she said. 

Ah, yes.  The night creeping.  I’m familiar with it. 

Isaac has always liked to get up in the middle of the night and walk around the house in the dark.  He’s not sleep walking.  He’s just… creeping.  Sometimes he reads.  Sometimes he gets a cold glass of milk.  Sometimes he ends up falling asleep again in weird places– like the couch or the linen closet. 

“Why did you get up in the middle of night at Miss Kate’s?”  I asked.  “You can’t do that at other people’s houses.  They won’t invite you over again if you’re creeping around the house all hours of the night.”

“I can’t help it,” he said.  “My body is just bound to it.  You know what I mean?  Sometimes my body just has to do it.  I can’t help it.”

Yeah.  OK.  Whatever. 

I laughed and blew it off.  But then, while I was out on a long run, I thought about his words again.  “My body is just bound to it.”

Yeah.  OK.  I see.

This winter has been long and dark.  I mean, REALLY long and dark.  I know everyone has been saying, for weeks now, “I am so over this winter.”  I am too, but not for the same reasons.  For about nine months, I was in one of the worst places I’ve been in a long time.  Change and I have never been friends.  Ever.  I don’t do transitions well or easily.  And this year has been a big one.

One of the things that has always helped me out of my mental funks is running.  It has been a stress reliever and a time when I felt free and unburdened.  It was essential to my well being.

And, suddenly, not only was I in a mental funk, I also found myself in a running funk.  A desperate one.  I’ve had trouble with my  SI joint before, but despite the fact that I was running less, and consequently, slower and slower, it, and my butt and hamstring, kept getting worse.  Cold temperatures and a general malaise on my part didn’t exactly motivate me to get out the door either.

I was miserable.  Maybe even especially when I ran.  I hated it.

I really hated it.  I would start out the door, wrapped head to toe in winter gear (which I frickin’ hate, by the way), and have the cold wind rip through my pull-over like a knife, and I would scream, to no one in particular, “I hate this!  Why do I do this?  What’s the point?”  More than once I chided myself for being stupid, grade-A dumb-ass for limping along in the freezing wind and rain and snow while I not only didn’t improve, I actually got worse every single day.  It was not helping my depression.  But I kept going. 

I felt like every time I laced up my shoes, it was just one more thing I didn’t want to do.  One more thing that made me sigh and shudder deep down.  One more thing I felt I was screwing up.  Yet I kept lacing them up.  I kept going out the door. 

It was like, as Isaac said, “my body [was] just bound to it.”  I couldn’t make myself stop even when I wanted to. 

It’s become such a part of my identity.  I’m a runner.  Without it, even if it was making me miserable, I would lose part of myself.

Even after I began my climb out of “the hole,” as I’ve come to call it, I felt like crap when I was running.  I felt happier and more in control of my life in general, but running still sucked.  My hamstring hurt all the time.  I could barely sit on my butt bone for more than 15 minutes.  I thought I might die on that bus trip to Charleston.  By the time we hit Columbia, I looked like some sort of contortionist as I tried to wrangle myself into a semi-tolerable position.  And my running?  I was ashamed to even call it running.  It was more like a lop-sided hobble.

I know that times are relative. Against my friends, Jason and Alison, who are both national class, I don’t qualify as fast.  But a few years ago, I was pretty decent in the “moms with small children” category.  I wasn’t amazing or anything, but I did well and felt good about it.  Even when I was injured, I was motivated to keep going because I was fit and fast and didn’t want to lose that.  It’s hard to keep running when you’re hurt and good at what you do, but it’s murder if you’re both hurt AND you suck.

Now, I’m neither fit nor fast.  But I keep going.  It’s weird.  I decided multiple times this year to quit.  To take up hiking and yoga full-time.  To start mountain biking again.  I’d decide.  And then I’d go for a run.  And come back pissed off.  And then go again the next day.

Fortunately, I seem to be on the mend.  Finally.  Knock on wood.

I remembered that, after my last flare up, Dr. Fields prescribed Meloxicam for inflammation.  I dug furiously through the medicine cabinet and found a week’s worth of pills.  I took them and felt almost instant relief.  I got a refill.  If I could just get theinflammation under control,  maybe I could actually do the things necessary to get better.

I broke out the old rehab exercises and ankle weights.  They sucked several years ago, and they suck now, but they also worked several years ago, so I’m betting they’ll work this time too.

And I’m sticking to trails, which I have grown to love very much.  The one thing that probably kept me going during the Long Winter.  I’m putting the trails Rob cut this year to good use.  And Freckles has become an excellent trail running partner.  Bonus.

The long and short of it is this: I’ve come out of a very bad place, and I’m still running.  And it’s getting better every day.  I even planned my upcoming race calendar, something I haven’t done in ages.  And it’s all because I never quit.  I never let go.  I just couldn’t.  I guess I’m just bound to it.