Over the years I’ve done my fair share of running. Not because I’m a runner by nature, or one of those people who just loves to run, but because I grew up playing soccer and doing so involves a good bit of running. Running in games. Running in practices. Running in my free time in order to be in good enough shape to run the duration of the game, and to potentially do so better than the guy next to me. In other words, running and I were pretty close. Maybe even close enough to grab an ice cream cone on the weekend together.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I hung ‘em up for good that I really stopped running. And, for a while, it was nice. Actually, it was better than nice. It’s not that I disliked running—if anything, it was the opposite; I always enjoyed the challenge and discipline it required, even the uncomfortableness of it—and I like to think I was pretty okay at it, but for the first time in a long time I didn’t have to run. And I liked that.
Recently, though, I began running again. Or at least I’m trying to run again (some days are better than others, and some days involve more sitting on the couch wearing sweatpants than others). For a number of reasons, really, among them being training for a half marathon. But if I’m being honest, I kind of just wanted to.
Which is weird. Running isn’t fun. It’s the opposite of fun. Like hitting yourself in the toe with a hammer hard enough to be uncomfortable but soft enough to be tolerable, for an extended period of time. But at the same time, there’s something desirable about it.
For me, running is a place of mental respite. A place I can escape to when my mind is troubled. Sure, it can also be a good place to think, but run far enough or hard enough and sooner or later your mind gets quiet. And then, at that point, all that matters is the next step. Not a professional, or financial, or relationship woe, or frustration with the dog tracking mud all over the house and generally being a maniac, just one foot in front of the other, until you do it enough times to get to wherever you’re going. Beautiful, quiet tranquility.
But that’s not to say that’s the only purpose running serves. Hopefully, on most days, you’re not running for those reasons at all. Hopefully you have more days filled with love and hope than you do anguish and turmoil. Hopefully you can run because you thought it was simply something that might benefit you. In some way, at least.
When I’m running I go through the aforementioned stages. First, I think about whatever is on my mind—a relationship, writing, the future. Then, after enough miles, my mind gets quiet and all that concerns me is putting one foot in front of the other. All this, I like to think, is part of a process to recharge.
Think of your mind as a battery. For a better visual, say that little iPhone battery icon on the top right corner of the screen. Maybe it’s a 6 Plus. Maybe it’s a 5s. Maybe it’s a piece of cardboard that you drew an iPhone on with sharpie, and went so far as to draw a little battery icon in the corner (and then in that case, well played). And before you run, you’re mind may not be fully charged. Perhaps, a lot of the time, it’s closer to red than it is green. But then you run and it starts filling up again, full of good, positive, creative energy, and before you know it your mind is fully charged, ready to tackle whatever challenge lies ahead.
It’s because of all this, coupled with some intangible, unexplainable thing, that running is magnetic. Even though 90 percent of the time you hate it, and question what sane human being would do this horrible thing to themselves, when you get done you think to yourself, ah, that wasn’t so bad, I think I’ll do it again tomorrow.
If none of that resonates with you, there’s surely something in there about discipline, or pushing through discomfort and adversity, or accomplishing your goals. Not to mention the whole thing about running being healthy for you. Which is also pretty neat, especially when you start getting older and begin to realize nachos aren’t keeping that midsection tight.