Updated: May 4
Celebrating the Loss of my Introversion Partner
One year ago life changed for me, but not for the reasons you might expect. I said goodbye to a life-long companion.
On March 2, 2020, I dropped my daughter off for a class and went out for a run along a nearby Bayou. I'd run out-and-back along this urban stream many times, but this time would be different.
Cross Country Superstar
When I was a pudgy teenager, my mom guilted me into joining my dad for morning runs at 6am before school. I begrudgingly went, later encouraged by my outpacing of my 54-year-old arthritic father. I eventually took pride in my athletic efforts, challenging myself with a series of 5K's that built my confidence. As a husky and shy introvert, confidence was definitely in short supply for me.
When I entered high school the next year, I was encouraged to join the cross country team to make friends and continue my running. Unfortunately, after the initial team run through the hills of Mountain Brook in the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama, I realized three things:
a lot of running was involved
a good bit of chatter with much more confident and athletic boys was the norm
my teammates were a lot faster than my aging dad and I was soon trailing the pack...badly.
That was my only day on the track team.
Slower & Closer to the Ground
However, years later in my mid-forties, I reconnected with running. The pain of the cross country experiment had faded and the memories of time with my dad prevailed. Even more so, I was finally embracing my introversion and relaxing to enjoy some time alone. So running became one of those escapes. Short jogs around the neighborhood led to an occasional 5K where I was certainly never the fastest, but not the slowest either. Sometimes my ego was boosted as I passed some elderly couples while I sprinted to the finish line.
After a shoulder-shattering bike accident led my doctors to advise me to stick with something slower and closer to the ground, I put more time and energy into running.
My ambitions and extreme convictions led me to limp across the finish line at a half marathon in 2016 - proud, exhausted, and overdone.
As part of my own personal development, I began to employ moderation across my life, including my running. It's helped me to enjoy life, creating a more sustainable lifestyle of work, family, and hobbies. Once I stopped chasing time and distance, it enabled me to relish my running time alone. In 2017 I began jogging more often, enjoying the scenery and the freedom.
However, the evening of March 2nd took that away. I didn't think much of it at the time. Toward the end of my run, I pulled up limping. Not one to warm up more than a short casual walk, I've had muscle soreness before and I assumed this was the same.
Instead of my leg recuperating, the pain began focusing on my throbbing left knee. After a week, I relented and saw my doctor. Months later, a second opinion confirmed I had an arthritic knee. Its condition would vary but would never really get better. I remember wishing it was a tendon or bone and I could just have surgery to repair the problem and return to my love of running. But that was not meant to be. When I did try some light jogging with a brace, the pain flared afterward and recovery was lengthy.
Like Father, Like Son
I secretly mourn my loss. I also recognized the irony of the moment and chuckle a bit since I'm the same age my arthritic dad was when I used to leave him in the dust on our morning runs.
I'm now walking an hour most days a week as part of my COVID exercise and escape plan. I enjoy the solitude, serenity, and thinking time, even though I must admit I don't get the adrenalin rush of a light jog. I suppose it's part of getting older.
I tell my kids to follow their passion, and my story certainly does underscore the importance for us to avoid procrastinating because we don't know what tomorrow will bring.
More importantly, I've found that we introverts need outlets of serenity, those moments alone we can just relax, ponder, exhale. Do you have a hobby like running, or perhaps writing, art, needlepoint, reading. Explore your interests. You might just discover an endearing introvert partner yourself.
So I stopped running from my introversion, and now I've learned to say goodbye to my running friend and to embrace, rather than fight, another passage of life. I'm focusing on stretching myself in new ways through blogging and writing as a champion of introversion and that brings me lots of the same challenge and satisfaction I got when I laced up my running shoes. In the meantime, my wife painted the picture above commemorating my runs so I can remember the times we did have together and celebrate one of my lost loves.
If you'd like to learn more about my journey, my lessons, and my recovery, check out the award-winning memoir, In Search of Courage: An Introvert's Story.