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Hope of spring spreads to running
Kim Cowart soaks in the sun while feeling on top of the world. - photo by Kim Cowart
You can have your wild parties and your beautiful beaches. When spring rolls around, all I want are garbage bags, Windex, and a good duster.

In the early days of our dating life, my husband found my 5th grade diary. There was lots of talk about a boy named Steven, complaining about Mr. Johnson (a teacher who thought education was wasted on girls since they were just going to stay home all day anyway), and lists. Lots of lists. Favorite candy. Favorite Saturday morning cartoons. Things I want to be. Perhaps the most telling list of all, Happiness Is There were the usual items: sleepovers, Ring-Pops, Smurf cereal. But at the top of the list, Happiness is a clean room.

I wrote that when I was 10, but those words are truer today than they ever were. Happiness is getting rid of the old to make room for the new. Brushing off the dust and cobwebs in the corners of the house feels like brushing the dust and cobwebs from the corners of my brain. Dropping off a truck load of old clothes and household items at the Salvation Army is as good as dropping 10 pounds. Forget Christmas; spring cleaning time is the most wonderful time of the year.

Spring gives me hope. As the days get brighter, so does my outlook. I dont hate winter. I love curling up by the fire, reading books and playing outside after the first snowfall. But after a few months, the fireplace is dirty, the books are all read and that fresh snow looks like the underside of my fridge, all covered in grime and soot.

Just when my spirit freezes over, I spy a crocus fighting to peek up out of the dirt. My cold, icy heart begins to thaw and I realize, Im going to make it out of my frozen tundra after all.

This spring, that hope has spread to my running. Im shaking off the disappointments and setbacks of last year and looking ahead with optimism. Like shedding my winter jackets, gloves and hats, Im shedding my self-doubt and mental struggle.

Running and I were on bad terms last year. I wanted to get along with running, but it didnt want to get along with me. It was like being in a bad relationship. Just as I was about to break up with running, it would be sweet and kind, sucking me back in only to trip me again sending me flying face first into the pavement (literally). Running was playing a sick mental game and I got tired of it, so we took a break.

The cold, icy winter was the perfect time to turn my back on running. I renewed my friendships with indoor cycling, strength training and even boot camp. Once in a while Id check in with running to see how it was doing. Those short check-ins were fine, but we clearly werent ready for anything long-term yet.

As happens every year, the sun broke through the clouds and melted the snow off my running path. I started to miss running. There had been bad times, sure, but there were some good times, too. I got real and owned up to my part of the demise of our relationship. I knew some of the bad times were my fault. I didnt allow my legs time to recover. I didnt fuel properly. I didnt sleep enough. I didnt listen to my hamstrings cries for help. And Im sorry for that.

The last couple of weeks, running and I have created a truce. I promised to take care of myself, to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to injury. I promised not to use running as a punishment or a measuring stick of my worth as an athlete. In return, running has promised to offer me mental solace, an outlet to work out stress rather than be the source of my stress.

Spring means renewal, a fresh start. I have high hopes that running and I will repair our friendship and get back on good terms. Weve been together a long time. Ive invested too much of myself to give up on it.

Running down the path the last mile of my first 16-mile run of the year, I noticed the sun peeking over the mountains, bathing the valley in a fire-like glow. The air was cool, and the roads quiet. All I could hear were the birds and my breath. I felt, dare I say, good?

Ive thrown out last years garbage. Ive cleared the dust, cleaned the grime. New season. New expectations. Welcome spring. Welcome back, running.
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