Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I Run

Just for reference,  I have to tell you that I have been running pretty consistently for over 30 years. Some years have been more consistent than others. But, I've probably done some amount of running, even if just a couple of miles.

I started running in the 8th grade. I had trouble making it around the track once. It was the most painful, harrowing thing I had done to my body up to that point. My legs felt like lead. My lungs worked so hard I thought I could taste blood. I wondered why anyone would want to jolt their body from the serenity of idleness to the gates of hell.

For some reason I kept at it. It certainly wasn't the joy; maybe it was the threat. When the oldest kid in the neighborhood told me I wasn't cut out for football and that I would be joining the cross country team in high school or else (of which he was the captain), my decision was sealed.

Luckily, many of my friends were also given the same ultimatum. Eventually, I was able to run further distances and grew to be more competitive. And, occasionally, as a team we did something phenomenal together - winning races, getting personal records, enduring long grueling practices. This forged our camaraderie for the sport and for each other and has given running a special place in my heart (legs and lungs). And I hate it.

Running has been one of those things that always nags at me. It never lets me rest. I feel guilt if I don't do it, and I believe it has turned me into a schizophrenic. While part of me asks - why am I doing this? why am I putting myself through all this pain? why am I running when it's dark and cold outside? - the other part goes out for a run.

Finally, after all these years, I believe I have come to an answer as to why I run.

Perhaps, it was because this past year left me in one of the most unique, personal situations I have experienced yet. Through a generous severance package I was able to leave my corporate job and not worry about finances - for a while. At the same time, due to a horrendous financial climate, I began to worry constantly about finances and if I would ever find a job again. I began to question my self-worth - what was I doing all this time? how much pain have I brought upon myself? why is the world so cold and dark?

I began to run more continuously because I promised myself that I would not turn into someone who is fat, in their forties and floundering. It would be easy to make excuses - too old, too strenuous, too hot, too cold. None of this would hold water when all I had now was time.

So why do I run?

I run to feel useful. I run because if I do nothing else during the day I have accomplished something. I run because in these times of uncertainty, running is the one thing I can control.  I run because it is hard. I run because it's not easy, but sometimes it's easier.

I run because sometimes the sun is in your face and the wind is at your back - even on cloudy days. I run because starting is bitter but finishing is sweet. I run because in this great recession, I can beat depression. I run because after four decades of slogging through shit, running relieves the numbness that has caked upon me.

I run to be alone, to escape from the encumbrances the world has heaped upon me. I run because the only noise I hear bearing down on me is the wind, my breath and my shoes touching the earth.

I run because the elderly woman who has walked religiously along part of my running route everyday has finally acknowledged me.  I run to say "hello" to people because it's something I don't do when I walk.

I run because sometimes I get better. I run because I only need a pair of shoes. I run because when it's over I feel better than when I started. I run because I like what's in the mirror.

I run because it is my time machine - youth and hope eternal. I run because I know one day I may not be able to do so. I run because I still remember the first time I tried and the many times after.  I run because one lap turned in to thousands of miles, and I did what I was certain I couldn't.

I run because a man in Chile - who was trapped some 2000 feet underground for 69 days wondered if he would ever see daylight again - ran to calm his fears. I run because this determined man said it all: "Running makes you free."

1 comment:

  1. Did the old lady say hello because you were only wearing a pair of shoes?