I run for joy— yes. I run for better health— of course. I run to challenge myself— certainly. I run to get a break from the monotony of life— absolutely. In the end, I keep running for reasons that aren’t easy to explain in everyday conversation.
Way beyond simple joy is a wild sense of being alive and the throbbing vitality that comes from a good, hard run. Physical exertion gets the heart pumping and blood flowing. Running out in the open air is much more elemental and satisfying on a basic level, at least for me, than anything that can be created in a gym. Muscles twitch, breath heaves, heart thumps, sweat drips and my entire being surges forward over the terrain— be it asphalt, or preferably, a constantly shifting and undulating trail. In the wilderness trees fly by and focus is required so as to not make a wrong step and end up flat on my face.
There’s something deeply satisfying about running hard enough to make the lungs burn and the muscles twinge with pain when moving past one’s comfort zone. Running in the red is not sustainable, but if I don’t push to the edge now and then I don’t feel like I’m trying. Intensity is something I crave in running on occasion. I believe runs shouldn’t always be too controlled or measured with conservative heart rates and paces. We’ve got to tear after it now and then to know where that edge is, taste it— lick the sweat, and then settle back into a more manageable groove. Smart runners know when to rip it up and when to go easy. I’m still learning to achieve balance in training.
Racing brings me to the edge of control every time if I give it my all, but I most like chasing after the abyss when running solo—solo, but not alone. It’s way more than just me when I’m out there running my face off! None of us truly runs alone, just as nobody lives in a vacuum. If we’re trying to be alone, then perhaps something is off-kilter leading us to feel or want to feel this way. Fellow runners, we’re covering the miles together! That’s why we have wonderful support available from running clubs, community races, and dailymile!
My running is about much more than pushing limits and seeking anything pleasurable. There’s a wisdom of running that is beyond good and bad. The most valuable runs show their worth not in any physical sensation, but in what they teach us about life on a deeper level. Every time I run, if I’m paying attention, I’m continually getting schooled in impermanence. Life is exemplified by change. Running is change accelerated and magnified.
Continually passing scenery is accompanied by gradually changing physical feedback, thoughts and emotions. Most runs, especially the longer efforts, feature temporary feelings ranging from elation to doubt and drudgery. It’s all there, spiraling around the simple movements of the run itself. Fortunately I learned long ago that chasing only joy is a shallow pursuit and one that would likely result in me giving up running.
Running and the endurance developed also teach us about suffering. Through marathoning I’ve learned oodles about my capacity to endure difficulty. Being able to run long encourages me to persevere in other avenues of life when I’d otherwise want to throw in the towel. I’ve reminded myself time and again that I can keep going farther than I once thought I could.
What I’m after in running more than anything else is an embrace, through focused movement, of life in its most primal, vigorous sense. Life’s obligations and responsibilities will not stop my inner wildman, not as long as I can head out the door and RUN! I’m coming to think running is and will continue to flesh out all these lofty ideals, perhaps for much of the rest of my life. Or at least I’d like running to go on as long as I am able, as long as my body holds up and allows me to get outside and put one foot in front of the other at some pace faster than walking.
For running to be a lasting practice over many years, I’m learning patience is a huge key— one I easily forget. Patience and endurance are inextricably linked. It’s much too easy to get caught up in the desire to be something other than what I am now, to be faster or able to run farther than I’m currently able. What is that?
It’s shit, that’s what! It’s the ego taking a dump on whatever good sense I ever had, taking me away from life in its present reality. When I too often run harder than currently prepared for, I wear down and end up injured. Instead I hope to embrace what I am in this moment with a patient welcoming of the shift running is gradually bringing about in my very being.
And so I am going to keep on running. Yes, I am going to keep on running!
Let’s run our faces off! WOOHOO!