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Off the 8s: Returning to running

Wednesday - 4/17/2013, 9:19am  ET

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I've had a love-hate relationship with running for several years. But there's no better time to mend that relationship than now. (Rachel Nania/WTOP)

Rachel Nania, wtop.com

Editor's Note: Off the 8's is a WTOP Living feature, in which staff inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center share personal stories from their lives.

WASHINGTON - I've been in a serious on-and-off-again relationship for 12 years. It's complicated.

But amidst the high times, the low times, the break-ups, the make-ups and the in- between times, it's probably the relationship that has had the greatest impact on my life. After all, it got me into college, it introduced me to my husband and at one point even saved my life.

Like I said, it's complicated.

My first introduction to running came at a low-point in my life. Like many teenage girls out there, I was struggling with a pretty serious eating disorder.

I'll never forget that doctor's appointment when my physician advised me to start exercising. For sure, I thought my mother was going to slap my doctor across the face. Advising a below-weight teenage girl with body image issues to burn calories? Seriously?

He clearly knew what he was doing -- because in order to exercise, one needs to eat, as I learned after a few woozy workout sessions.

Twenty minutes on the stationary bike turned into 30 minutes on the elliptical, which eventually resulted in a jog outside. I was instantly hooked.

The fresh air, the freedom, the adrenaline -- I'd found my love. I spent my childhood participating in sports like swimming, soccer and tennis, but nothing compared to the high I got from running.

My last year in high school, I dumped tennis and soccer and dedicated my final year to cross country, track and local road races. Yeah, I wasn't the best in the District, but I was one of the best on my team. And I was so dedicated.

I set personal records in the two-mile and even ran a half-marathon at lightning speed. College application time rolled around, and mine was all about running. I was obsessed. I was in love. And, ironically, I was functioning at a much healthier weight.

Then came the heartbreak.

It was my first week of college and my right iliotibial band and lower left leg were killing me. But it was college cross country tryouts. So I pushed through -- a little too hard.

To take my mind off my leg pain, I decided to go out with some other teammates that first weekend of school. It was an upperclassman's party. Being a freshman, I instantly felt "cool."

Then I saw him. A goofy, skinny kid playing a classic college game (we'll call it "ping pong"), and I fell in love all over again.

Unfortunately, the pains in my legs took over those first few months of my first year of college and I had to spend the cross country season on the bench. Fortunately, the time off the track gave me time to foster a relationship that I still have going -- the one I have with my husband.

But my relationship with running suffered and it has never been the same. I've never been able to run as fast, as far and with the same vigor. Sure, after some recovery I went back to running, but I didn't take my time and just found myself injured again… and again.

For the past 10 years, running has been a love-hate relationship. I envy those who can do it consistently. I only run about three miles at a time and at a moderate pace.

I think most of my hesitation with pushing further has been because of fear. I'm afraid I will never be as good as I once was. I'm afraid I will never love it as much as I once did. And I'm afraid I will get hurt again.

About two weeks ago, I started adding some running into my semi-regular yoga workout routine -- mostly because the weather has been too nice to ignore. And honestly, I've loved it. The positive feelings I once had for running were coursing through my body.

Then Boston took place -- an incident that shook me, and the nation. The bombing occurred in my former city. It happened on the same path I'd walked a million times on my commute to-and-from work. It happened on the same path where I'd run with my husband on the evenings leading up to our wedding.

I've stumbled out of bars right there, I've taken pictures with friends right there, I've shopped right there and I got engaged right there. Like many others, I've even cheered on the marathon finishers there.

The fact that the act of terror crossed two of my favorite loves -- Boston and running -- upset me in such a way that I didn't know how to react or express myself… so I went for a run.

I let out the frustrations, felt the high and reflected on all of those involved in Monday's tragedy.

I think running is a sport to which I will always return in the good times and in the bad. But now, instead of sticking to my usual three easy miles, I think it's time to take a risk and push myself a little further. I'm not declaring I will run a marathon. But each time I run, I will run for Boston.

Running has always been my sport. Now, it is a sport that belongs to the rest of the country as we remember the victims and families of the 117th race.

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