I have come to enjoy the triathlon lifestyle in the 10 or so years I have been involved, but, at the end of the day (and, coincidentally, at the end of the race), I am a runner.
Just as I became a triathlete by accident (I never thought I would combine 3 sports, especially cycling, and I couldn't even imagine doing an Ironman...I thought that was downright nuts), I am an accidental runner.
I will blame it on my dad. He was the runner. He and his brother. They did crazy things like marathons and trail runs and 10k races...whatever those were. I rode horses. That was about it. One day, though, he signed me up to run a 1-mile race at an elementary school field day/track meet event. And then he coached me to run that 1-mile race. It was one of those things in life I will never forget. I was 12. The boys and the girls all ran together. Someone said, "go!" and it was a mad dash as if the race were only 100 yards rather than 4 times around the track. My dad said, "go slow"; so, I went slow and, before long, I was at the complete back of the group. Unhappy and grumpy. But he was right. Somewhere around lap 3, I began to pass people. By the last lap, I had passed everyone, except 2 other girls. That's right. My 12-year-old, bad-ass self had passed all the obnoxious, disgusting, cootie-filled boys. In the end, I was 2nd in that race, and I was officially a "runner."
That was a very, very, very long time ago. I wasn't always consistent, but I was officially and forever "a runner." I ran cross-country in high school and walked onto my cross-country team in college (I was the slowest person on the team...I think I run faster now than I did then...we were not known for our athletics). I ran my first marathon in 1985. I got a job, got married, got sick, didn't run very much. Then, started the cycle all over again. Ran a couple more marathons, local races, discovered trail running, worked mega hours, stopped again, started again, got sick again, started all over again.
But no matter what, I was always a runner and no matter where I was, I could always run. It was easy. Put on my shoes. Step out the door. Go.
Usually about August/September, I get tired of swimming and biking and measuring and calculating and logging and analyzing. I can't wait for the triathlon season to be over, so I can put up the goggles, pull buoy, paddles, bike shoes, and helmet and just put on my running shoes, step out the door, and go.
Running is my sanity. It gives me 30 minutes or a few hours of simply moving forward, breathing, and letting my mind wander. Nothing gets done. There are no light bulbs or moments of enlightenment. I just exist in the moment.
Yesterday, I ran through the streets of Orlando, Florida. Going wherever the sidewalk led me. Out, back, and around. It was easy. It was simple. Just a pair of shoes, out the door, and I went.