This weekend, I ran an accidental half-marathon.

At 3k, I was feeling great, and I laughed to myself, "maybe this will be a half-marathon." I ran through High Park, amazed at the amount of nature that I had easy access to after 15 minutes of running.

At 6k I felt some pain in my knee. My legs were starting to feel tired.

At 8k, the pain now gone, I thought to myself, "if I run double of this, that will only be 16k — and that already took 40 minutes."

At 16k I felt, "huh, only 5 more, and I'd do a half-marathon." And that’s when I decided to do the whole damn thing.

A few friends started running recently. They joined a run club in downtown Toronto. And they were eagerly inviting everyone in our friend group to join. I was cautious about this. For the past few years, I'd been telling myself that my lungs are messed up after having COVID. And they certainly felt that way. Occasionally, I would run out of breath while talking, or going up a set of stairs. But most of all, I was afraid. Afraid of something bad happening to me. I had developed a certain amount of anxiety, more than I'd like to admit. But I did manage to admit it recently. The anxiety usually manifests itself physically as a weight in my chest and mentally, I will sometimes catastrophize about bad things happening. Many times in the past few years, I was afraid of my life ending. Collapsing on stairs. I can feel the sludge of anxiety run through my arms as I type this.

Your world opens up when you admit things to yourself. Things that you've been avoiding really facing.

In my mind I'd already told myself no, I won't go to this run club. But, over time I saw they were having a lot of fun, taking photos at the end of their runs, talking about how great it felt to be together. One friend said that, at this age, it's harder and harder to get together, and having something like this acts as a good forcing function for both getting exercise and socializing. They also decided to run a half-marathon in the fall.

So I started running again, alone. The last time I really ran was in 2019 when my good friend Sean helped me train and complete a half-marathon. This was and still is big in my memory. For years in my early life I told myself that I couldn't run because I had asthma and because I seemed to be pretty damn bad at it. But together, Sean helped me work through and get to a place where I could run the full 21k. But not much happened with running for, I guess four years, now.

A few weeks ago, I started again.

So, at the end of March, I ran 3k. My legs ached for a day and a half after. Turns out that rock climbing, cycling and swimming still don't hit the same muscles that running hit. Then I ran 7k a few days later. Then 4k and 7k the next week. Then, 5k the week after. 7k the week after. Then, 12k. Then I joined the run club: no problems with my lungs. Instead: smiling, panting conversations, and good Japanese food after at the village by the grange.

Then, yesterday, I ran 21k.

Running what is really just an arbitrary distance isn’t going to break whatever spell is on you. But it is a bit of a slap in the face or a shock of cold water when you do something that you couldn't imagine doing. I have hazy, long-winded essays swirling around inside me about the relationship between how I feel in my mind and how I feel inside my body when it comes to mental health and exercise. And I won't talk too much about that— because that's what it is, hazy. I'm still learning a lot about it. I will note one thing though: rather than commit to something I might fail at, I instead chose to push myself to do it on my own—and now I feel ready to commit. Now that I know I can do it, I will do the race.

I don't know what to make of that save for this: the fear of failure is a driving machine, and it is petty, and it is powerful. And I do not wish to live under its control any longer.