“What are you running from?” The question is jarring. My body was moving forward; my mind zoned out. Nothing changed – my cadence was regular, and I was breathing in a locked pattern I’ve practiced on hundreds of runs (exhaling on alternating foot falls in a 2-3 pattern). But when my brain woke up from my running daydream, that startling question flashed through my skull.
I’ve heard that specific question many times. Comedians make fun of runners (a specific routine from Kathleen Madigan comes to mind), and people constantly question the sanity of a marathoner. I’ve had people leave their groups of friends to join me for a few moments of my long run. They exaggerate their running form and look back at their amused friends as if to say: “Hey look! I’m an idiot runner too!”
My running patterns and paces have been locked in for the past few weeks. I’m regaining the momentum I lost at the end of spring. I’ve run more miles this week than any other week in the last half year (and I still have the weekend ahead). November’s mileage was the most I’ve totaled since March.
So as my body finds its running comfort zone, my brain is free to shut down mid run. Or it can dream and wander. Today, that freedom brought me in a complete circle back to the beginning and back to a question all runners face. Why do I do this?
If you frequent running blogs and publications, you’ve read multiple articles explaining why an individual runs. There are many variances – in honor of a loved one who has passed, to raise awareness or research dollars for a cause, to clear the mind, to stay in shape. The list is long.
But maybe we aren’t explaining our reasons to the outside world. Maybe we are clarifying the reasons and convincing ourselves. Maybe these explanations are just part of the cycle. We must describe why we are compelled to choose rigorous and challenging physical activity over the multitude of alternate, more comfortable, options.
As all of these thoughts raced through my mind, as I continued to click off my miles for the day.
I’m running away from a lot of things.
The voice in the back of my head that tries to talk me out of lacing up my shoes and logging my workouts.
Complacency that can easily capture me and convince me that my goals are too far out of my reach.
The person that I was six years ago, choosing to be lazy day after day, an attitude that inevitably leaks into all other areas of life from work to relationships.
Fear that I’m painfully normal and will never make an impact in life.
The failures I’ve fought through in the past.
When I started running six years ago, it wasn’t much fun. Instead it was painful and frustrating. But as I slowly improved, my breathing became less labored, I found freedom and peace on the run.
I smile when people tell me they hate running (and that happens a lot). I once did as well. When I hated running, I was forcing myself through the physical motion. Gradually, it became more emotional and spiritual. Running is my comfort zone now.
Why do I run?
Because otherwise, I’m just standing still.