I liken my relationship with running to that of the girlfriend you never really wanted to be with in the first place but eventually grew to love. In the beginning, everything is awkward - you're unsure of each other, trying to figure out what you want out of the relationship and are still at the point where you can either take it or leave it and not lose much sleep over it. Think back to high school and your first week of cross country practice. Yeah, it was just like that.
Over time, however, the girl grows on you and a bond develops, which eventually strengthens and before you know it, you fall in love with her. Some days you find yourself on Cloud 9 - daydreaming of your future together and all of the special things you're going to do, see and accomplish. It's euphoric, and you lose yourself in these thoughts. Not a moment goes by you aren't thinking of your new love and all the things you're eventually going to do together. As in any relationship, you'll encounter your bumps along the road, but usually these issues are relatively minor, linger for a day or two like a set of sore quads and are forgotten about as quickly as they surfaced. Above everything, you're having fun with the girl and everything just seems to be clicking between the two of you and it seems as if nothing's ever gonna stop you. Kinda like running off a string of PR's, setting a few school records and winning races with relative ease. There are moments of joy and sadness, confusion and anger and everything in between, but this is part of any worthwhile relationship. You learn to take the good with the bad and the highs with the lows and eventually you don't get too excited or upset over either. Sound familiar?
Every so often, however, some big conflict arises between the two of you and inevitably leads to a long break. Trouble was probably brewing beneath the surface for a while, but you chose to ignore it, hoping it would just go away. Think nagging running injuries. One day, however, the issues explode through the surface like a volcano and it's obvious that it's probably gonna take a while to resolve the new, bigger problem at hand. This can be quite painful to accept - not to mention lengthy - and will likely leave you with a feeling of emptiness and withdrawal. You do whatever you can to fix the problem as quickly as possible, talk to anyone and everyone who you think might be able to help you but eventually just drive yourself crazy with your lack of success. She just wants to be left alone but you have trouble accepting that fact.
Eventually, you're forced to teach yourself a lesson in patience and you might back off for a while. Or you might not, and out of haste go find some new girl to occupy the time you once spent with your true love before realizing she just isn't the same, not to mention not nearly as fun to be with. Unsatisfied with the lack of fulfillment the new girl provides, you quit calling her and hope she gets the message loud and clear. In the meantime, you return to feeling sorry for yourself and wallow in your own sadness. Kinda like pool running. It can be downright depressing. The days - sometimes weeks and months - pass, and then one day, seemingly out of the blue, the original girl comes comes crawling back without warning and everything is as beautiful and perfect as it once was. Some awkwardness for sure, but eventually it's like you haven't even missed a step. A return to the good 'ol days, or so it seems.
For a while, there are no issues to speak of. Life is lovey dovey again and seemingly goes off without a hitch. Everything is agreeable between the two of you, and for a while this is comforting. You might even be feeling good enough about how things are going to commit to something momentous and possibly life changing, like marriage or the Chicago Marathon, the ultimate symbols of a beautiful relationship that can only lead to bigger and better things such as children or an Olympic Trials qualifying time. As time goes on, however, you realize that you aren't where you once were and might get the sense that something is missing in the relationship. You freak out. Almost if you're second guessing yourself because you haven't PR'd in three or so years. As a result, you try do everything in your power to find that something again as quickly as possible, even if you don't know what it is exactly. You jump into things too quickly and fail to let nature, or a well-thought out training plan, take its proper course. If anything, you overdo it.
Inevitably, it just leads to another major conflict. Your girl feels you aren't trusting her, maybe even rushing her, and one day she just walks out on you. Just like that. No warning, just one big, decisive blow that's not easy to recover from. It hurts. A lot. You're confused, more so than ever before because everything seemed to be going so good just a few weeks ago. Kinda like the pain in my ass that resurfaces any time I attempt to run these days. Eventually, you start questioning if the relationship is even worth it. You go back to consulting different people, like psychologists or relationship experts - or chiropractors, PTs and massage therapists - but aren't satisfied with anything that you're hearing. Not to mention you're out a down payment on a church and reception hall, or an entry fee and a non-refundable plane ticket to Chicago. Eventually you take matters into your own hands. You quit feeling sorry for yourself and decide to do something about it. Life's too short not to live, right?
Maybe you start seeing new people, like a road bicycle or a swimming pool. The latter you know you don't like, but she's a cheap date, gives you something to do and doesn't take much offense if you blow her off without warning. The former, well, she's all new to you. She's nice to look at, fun to spend time with, keeps you on your toes, and forces you to consider future possibilities. Sure, she's more expensive than the old girl, but when you're with her, you become overrun with an excitement and joy that you haven't experienced in years. You're not even sure if you really like her or not, or if you're ready to make the kind of commitment necessary for something worthwhile and long-lasting to develop, but she gives you that rush you're looking for and for now that's good enough. It seems like a fair trade-off. In the back of your mind, however, you're holding out hope that eventually the old girl might return and everything will be fine and dandy again. Some flames just refuse to die out.
When you talk to some old friends in similar situations, a few think it's great that you're finally seeing other people, a couple consider you a cheater for supposedly taking the easy way out, and others advise you to keep seeing the new girl because the old one will eventually come crawling back and if you're careful about it, you can see a little of both without the other one knowing. It's downright scandalous, but you keep your options open anyway.
This just leaves you in a world of mental turmoil. Your true love, who deep down means the world to you, has broken your heart - in my case, she broke my ass. You still love her to death but just don't want to talk to her right now. It hurts too much. You need your space, she needs hers. After the last big flare-up, everything appeared fine and dandy for a while but the two of you never really took care of the true issue and it just found it's way to the forefront yet again. It's a vicious cycle, which doesn't make for a healthy relationship. In fact, it makes for a rocky, often times frustrating and unfulfilling one. If you try to force the issue, it just makes things that much worse. Sometimes, I've found, you just have to let go - whether you like it or not - and give her the space she needs and let time heal the wounds. If things were truly meant to be, you have to trust that eventually she'll find her way back to you.
As they say, sometimes love hurts.