I have a hat that simply states, “Running is for Lovers.” I bought it because, well, I liked it. I have something of an obsession with trucker hats, and this one was emblazoned with a “hipster” running quote. Naturally, I had to buy it, even though I have never used the phrase, “Running is for Lovers,” nor did I necessarily have any plans of using the phrase, “Running is for Lovers,” nor did the phrase “Running is for Lovers” strike me as particularly profound. In fact, I believe my exact words were, “What does that even mean?” But I liked it. So I bought it.
But this hat, folks. This hat. It’s the Confucius of running hats.
How are you feeling today? The miles ask me as I take the first creaky steps of a late evening run. The damp, chilly darkness of early winter settles heavily on the sidewalks and roads. The sun disappeared hours ago. It is my second run of the day.
I’m sorry. The miles try to console me. They point out the Christmas lights on the houses and the giant Christmas tree in the city center roundabout. The festive glow throws vibrant colors like shadows across the wet sidewalks and few remaining puddles from the rain the day before. It will be okay.
“No, it won’t.”
I answer. I answer with every footstep. With every sharp intake of air. With every easy breath—the slow, deliberate kind you take to calm yourself down. I answer with a solitary hot tear. I answer by wiping it away. I answer by stopping. By covering my face with my hands. By sobbing.
When I look up, nothing has changed. Nothing is better. Nothing is worse. The Christmas lights still cast their cheery glow across the streets. The puddles still sparkle with reds and greens. And it is very quiet. And cold.
But the miles are still there. They wait for me—patiently, silently—while I have myself a good cry, right there on the sidewalk. C’mon, they say, as if wrapping their arms around me. Time to keep going.
And I do. Because, well, that’s what runners do. We keep going.
The concept of “fading” is an interesting one. To fade is to lose strength, to lose vibrancy. It is a bright light, once brilliant, growing dim. It is a fire, once roaring, threatening to burn out completely. It is an ever widening distance between two things—like passion and the completion of a goal—until one loses sight of the other. To watch something fade is to watch something slowly become nothing.
We often talk about runners fading in the late stages of a race. “I was on PR pace through twenty,” we say, “but then I started to fade.” As runners, we are constantly trying not to fade. In training. In races. We fight it. We strategize to avoid it. We fuel and train to push against it. And when we start to feel its waning effects, we slow down, we walk, we stretch, we gut it out, we do whatever we have to do to prevent it. We fight fading because we are too passionate to simply become nothing.
You see, when something fades, it doesn’t burn more brightly in the other direction. It simply disappears. The opposite of forward isn’t backward; it’s standing still. The opposite of a fire isn’t so much the ice; it’s the ashes. And, as the saying goes, the opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference.
Runners can be all sorts of things, good and bad. They can be real saints. They can be real jerks. But they cannot be apathetic. The sport simply doesn’t allow it.
Runners are the toughest bunch of softies the world has ever known. Watch Meb celebrate winning Boston. Watch Kara talk about hitting the wall in New York. Watch cross country athletes carry a fallen teammate across the finish line. Watch anybody, anywhere, complete a workout, a long run, a race. The range of emotions is as varied and long as the courses run. Runners are passionate, and those who are passionate will feel things deeply. No, running is not for the indifferent.
Running is for people who try. Running is for people who make themselves vulnerable. Running is for people who are afraid but do it anyway. Running is for people who laugh. Running is for people who cry. Running is for people who are angry. Running is for people with regrets. Running is for people who are celebrating. Running is for people who are grieving. Running is for people who need to start over. Running is for people who refuse to give up.
Because running, as it turns out, really is for lovers. And, as Shakespeare himself said, the course of true love never did run smooth.
And sometimes it's awful and sometimes it's wonderful, but always we keep going.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.