I felt something peculiar while I was out on my run. Someone was watching me. I picked up my pace. I soon heard footsteps behind me. I looked but saw no one. Still, there was something following me, and I was scared. I looked down at the asphalt ahead of me.
Sure enough, there were two shadows. Someone was behind me. I ran faster. I reasoned that it was a coincidence. I tried to calm myself but to no avail. I was terrified.
I changed my route – turning corners towards more populated areas. Whoever was behind me was getting closer. When my house came into view, I made a crazy fast dash to the door. I unlocked the door, jumped inside and slammed it behind me. I locked it and turned on my security system. Finally, I was safe.
There are a lot of things that scare us in life. Things we don’t want to confront until we’re ready – until we have the proper protection. Things like people chasing us during runs, things like our pasts, things like addictions to substances or relationships. Things like abuse and abandonment. Of course, we could try to outrun these things. We can lock doors, but we can’t hide inside forever. Bad people and bad situations will always be lurking outside; we just need to learn how to keep ourselves safe.
It’s a lot like when I went to the bookstore last week. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I picked up a book about overcoming things in my past. I opened the cover and began to scan the pages. When I came upon a journal prompt asking specifics about abuse, I closed the book and slammed it back on the shelf. I walked as quickly away from the bookstore aisle as I had run that last 20 feet to the door of my house the day that I had been followed. I wasn’t ready to run. I just wasn’t.
I love to run, so the idea that I would never feel safe doing so again was unreasonable. I also love the folks in my hometown, so the idea that anxiety and regret will keep me away from there forever is also unreasonable. I pray. I pray that God will help me to forgive others and help me to forgive myself. I pray for peace. Faith is something I always need to run toward.
I’ve also learned to learn from others. I’ve been blessed to develop friendships with people who inspire me, people who keep me safe, people who love me. Sometimes a coffee break with someone I trust is exactly what I need to keep me focused. I haven’t always been good at maintaining friendships but, now more than ever, I realize the importance of running with a group. Running alone is dangerous.
I’ve changed my route. I can’t handle my fears in the same way I did before. Avoidance is not effective. It’s like replacing running with cake – except that for me cake was alcohol and the icing was unhealthy relationships. In the last few years, I’ve invested the energy and effort to run a new route with new and healthier ways of protecting myself from the ghosts that try to chase me.
It may seem like I’m running away from things. I’m not. I’m just learning to adjust my pace. I’m figuring out what I like, what I don’t like, what makes me feel secure, which hills I’m ready to tackle, and which races require more training. I’m taking my time and I’m being kind to myself. I’m running again because now- I’M READY.