December turned out to be the month that I expected back in September. And coming three months late, it took me by surprise.
Once school starts with full force in September, that's when I have, for the last dozen years, fallen off the running wagon. It hasn't been a gradual fall, either. It hasn't been an incremental decline. It has been an abrupt stop--an abrupt entry into the sedentary. And so, I expected that September of 2013 would, even with the assistance of a run streak, be the month when my mileage would drop dramatically. But I surprised myself throughout the fall. My mileage stayed steady (a drop from July and August, but still averaging at least two miles per day), and my speed increased in ways that continued to shock and please me.
And then came December. December brought cold, which I don't mind at all. In fact, I rather enjoy cold-weather running. It also brought snow, which I don't love so much. Since I have a habit of falling on perfectly smooth surfaces, I find snow-running a fearful experience. I also hate--really, really hate--treadmill running. The discovery of Yak Trax helped me choose the challenge of snow over the tediousness of the treadmill.
Still, the decrease of mileage and speed in December seemed to have less to do with the external conditions and more to do with my internal condition. A physical and emotional fatigue set in during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It crept from my interior to my exterior, leaving me desperate for a break and unable to talk myself into running more than the cursory, streak-based daily mile for 24 of 31 days. Of the seven days I ran more than a mile, five came after I was on vacation.
I have reflected a great deal on this month, this long December, which came at the end of a lovely fall full of new challenges, lovely students, and hope for reinvigoration of my career. I have tried, without complete success, to not condemn myself for what feels an awful lot like failure. I have repeatedly reminded myself that I ran 31 more days than last December--43 more miles than last December.
I suppose the real question is, what comes next? What will January bring? Have I climbed out of my tired, spent hole? Or will January and February be what they so often have been: months too full of paper-grading and dark evenings to push me further down the road than the half-mile corner?
Or perhaps that question is merely the obvious one, rather than the important one.
Will I run?
At least one mile. Every day.