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February 6, 2020 | therecordherald.com

By Andy Sandrik / For The Record Herald

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I wipe the sweat from my brow as I complete my workout on this unseasonably warm February day.

I snap a photo of myself and post it to social media, reminding my followers that this 65-degree winter afternoon is perfect for running in shorts and a T-shirt. My “Instagram perfect” smile indicates that all is well and that running, indeed, can solve all of our problems.

Depressed? Anxious? Angry at the world? Go for a run.

I know I’m guilty. This sport has become my go-to therapy for everything from stress to crippling sadness. I’ve spent years pushing this idea that running is a panacea of sorts. And in many ways, running CAN alleviate our symptoms, even make us temporarily forget that they exist.

But can running itself fix our issues? Nah.

There are some days — like this beautiful, tranquil and sunny afternoon — where I have every reason to be happy. But I can’t, because I live in my head.

As much as I try to put matter over mind through the act of running, I’ve learned there are just going to be times when I can’t run away from the perseverations and can’t escape from the unexplainable anguish that sometimes fills my heart.

Even on this perfect spring-like running day, I can’t focus on establishing my stride because I’m too busy wondering why I get so mad at my kids, for being kids.

I struggle to attack the uphills because I can’t figure out why I’m so terrified to apply for new and better jobs, and why the thought of sitting in for an interview makes me want to throw up.

I want to settle into a comfortable breathing pattern for this workout, but instead I’m trying to explain to myself, with no success, why I still haven’t shed a tear over my father in the five years since he has passed.

I’d really like to finish this run strong, but I’m exhausted because I spent much of the night awake in bed wondering why I am the way I am.

Runners are out all over town on this sun-splashed day, and I return a wave from one of them with a vibrant smile and a confident, “Good afternoon!” The runner continues on his way, which gives me a chance to wipe a few tears from the corners of my eyes. This interaction, with a human that isn’t myself, gives me a boost and I can feel the normalcy once again flowing through my veins.

I pick up the kids from school, prepare dinner, wash the dishes, bathe everyone and read bedtime stories, all with a smile on my face. Running, it seems, has once again saved the day.

But this time, I refuse to simply let myself be content with weathering another storm.

I pick up the phone and make the call. For the first time in my life, I’m asking for help and allowing a professional to help guide me through something I’ve been secretly battling for decades.

Running has done so much for me. It has helped me get through some dark places and inspired me to do amazing things I never thought I could do. I think it’s even safe to say that my commitment to this sport has added a few years to my existence.

But when it comes to my mental health, I now understand that even the gift of running might not be enough to give me the help that I need.

My appointment is on Monday morning. I’m nervous, of course, but I still can’t wait to take this first step of the most important race in my life.

1 STEP BACK, 3 STEPS FORWARD

The Chambersburg IceFest ended with a bang last weekend, due in part to the 277 runners who took on the Run Your Ice Off 5K, the first event of the Cumberland Valley Race Series.

Hummelstown’s Alex Pearson, 34, clocked a 16:24 to outduel Chambersburg’s Dustin Adams (16:40) and Billy Prentice (17:48). Alecia Rotz, 35, was the top female in 20:16 over fellow Chambersburg runner Abigale Bricker (21:17) and Hagerstown’s Dani Mason (21:52).

Other top runners in the race were Chambersburg’s Bill Dann (18:17), Ari Snyder (18:34), Chris Monheim (19:07), Jim Boyer (20:04), Jonathan Rotz (20:13), Jason Huber (20:16), Jeremy Hawk (20:23), Stan Vaughn (20:35), Cheryl Oyler (24:14) and Tarah Van Deursen (25:40), Orrstown’s Erik Davis (19:41) and Katlyn McKee (23:25), Hagerstown’s Walker Mason (20:38), Fayetteville’s Devin Rosencrance (20:40), Shippensburg’s Bonnie Craig (24:38), Kimberly Diehl (24:38) and Kristen Haupt (25:35), and Mont Alto’s Cali Filges (25:30).

And now, a look ahead:

Cupid’s Chase 5K: Saturday, 10 a.m., in Harrisburg. Fall in love with this race, which raises money for Community Options, an organization that provides residential and employment services to individuals with disabilities. Look up the event on runningintheusa.com.

Squirrelly Tail Twail Wun: Sunday, Feb. 16, 10 a.m., in Lewisberry. Take on the challenge of Gifford Pinchot State Park, and perhaps the elements, in this trail half marathon. Find the race on runningintheusa.com.

George Washington Birthday Marathon: Sunday, Feb. 16, 10 a.m., in Greenbelt, Md. Challenge yourself with this event, the longest running marathon in the National Capital area. Check out the race on gwbm.dcroadrunners.org.

Also: Jacobus 5 Miler (Saturday, in Jacobus); Bear Run 4 Mile (Sunday, in Westminster, Md.); Falling for You Half Marathon (Sunday, in Potomac, Md.); Operation Iceberg Series 5K/10K (Sunday, in Columbia, Md.); Roof Park 5K/10K (Saturday, Jan. 15, in New Cumberland); Mid-Maryland Trail Festival 50K (Saturday, Feb. 15, in Elkridge, Md.); Kemp Mills (C)hills 5K/10K (Sunday, Feb. 16, in Silver Spring, Md.); Meadowood Regional Park 5K/10K (Sunday, Feb. 16, in Lutherville-Timonium); Sykesville Shiver Shuffle 5K (Sunday, Feb. 16, in Sykesville, Md.).