The Lonely Runner.

After two very late nights (for me!), I let out a nice big groan when my alarm went off at 7am for Sunday’s run.  I stumbled around and got ready in my running gear, determined to get out early and beat the Georgia heat.  (Someone looks…tired.)

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I headed downstairs to make my standard pre-run meal – PB&J!  Love that Casey’s family is a group of diehard Trader Joe’s users just like me. 

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I’m not used to regular nut butters – this was SO filling! 

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Gooey and delicious.  Just what I needed.

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And a big ole cup of coffee in a Starbucks Atlanta mug, just like the Indianapolis mug I have at home!

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Casey’s uncle Kevin was nice enough to plan out a run for me – he even drew me a map to make sure I didn’t get lost!  I headed about ten minutes away from their house in Roswell to a parking area right by the Chattahoochee River.  The plan was that I would run from the parking area to a park called Cochran Shoals, an area with lots of great running trails.  I pointed myself in what I hoped was the right direction, and took off down the road…

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I ran for two miles before I started to wonder if I was going the wrong way.  But I kept getting passed by packs of bikers, so I figured they must be heading somewhere and I kept going.  I had so much going through my head that morning.  It was a VERY fun, but also somewhat introspective weekend for me.

There is an isolating difference between having "just one drink” and not having any at all.  The difference between one and zero is really what it’s all about.  Since quitting I’ve often been asked, “why don’t you just drink one?” and the truth is, I absolutely could.  I don’t have a drinking problem.  But for me, it’s about commitment.  I decided to stop drinking, and to stop drinking, means to stop completely.  I don’t eat “just one” piece of bacon, so I don’t have just one glass of wine either.  It isn’t a hard decision.  In fact, there’s not even temptation.  It simply comes down to discipline.

But I’ve already talked about quitting drinking, so I don’t really need to revisit all that.  To get back to it, I found myself running along the path to the river Sunday morning, feeling both emotionally and physically…a little lost.  Going out late and partying with friends was a big part of my college and post-college years, and being back in the party scene this weekend reminded me that, while there are certainly things that I don’t miss, there is a world out there that has continued on without me, and despite my best efforts, I’m not part of it anymore.  Even so, I still had a great time hanging out with the girls, and I’m so glad they included me in all their bachelorette fun.

As I ran towards the river Sunday morning, I couldn’t quiet the thoughts racing through my mind about all that has changed in just a few short years.  As we make our way moving around the country, it is hard to make new friends without the ease of wine tastings and happy hours, and I’m not always sure quite where I fit in anymore.

Just as I started to wonder if I had made a wrong turn somewhere, the path opened to reveal a giant parking lot literally PACKED with cars of runners and bikers – so many that there was a line waiting to park stretching down the road.  I found the trail head and got a much needed break at the water fountain.  I could not believe how many people were out running, biking, and dog walking so early on a Sunday morning. 

Visitors walking along the Cochran Shoals Fitness Trail.

Suddenly all my feelings of loneliness and self-doubt were gone.  There may be parts of my old lifestyle that I can’t be part of anymore, but my new healthier way of life is such a better fit for me.  Surrounded by total strangers, I felt supported and encouraged by the smiles and waves of all the other passing runners. 

I wished so badly that I’d had my camera with me on this run.  The trail went right along this beautiful river with several big clearings looking directly out over the water.  Luckily I was able to steal a few images from someone else!

There were HUNDREDS of people out on this trail, and having so many other active people around me, combined with multiple ice cold water fountains, made for my best training run to date.  I wasn’t necessarily fast, but my mind and heart were in the right place, and that was all that mattered to me.

After ten miles on the trail, I decided to make the hot and water-less 2.5 mile trek back to my car, since the southern sun was starting to beat down mercilessly.  I made it back feeling HOT, tired, and proud of myself.

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I was so thankful for the Gatorade I had stolen out of Toby and Kevin’s garage that morning – CHUG!

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Just a few years ago, I would have been stumbling out of bed right around then, searching for Advil and moaning with a hangover.  I probably would have spent the entirety of that beautiful day laying in the dark on my couch.  Instead, in the wee hours of a gorgeous Georgia morning, I ran 12 hot and sticky miles and felt amazing. 

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Perhaps I know where I fit in after all.