I always think it’s funny when people ask me why I run. Not funny that they would ask the question, but funny that when I stop and think about it, I can never quite articulate why I do run. Sure, there are the standard answers: it allows me to eat whatever the hell I want, it keeps me from becoming homicidal…but when you get right down to it, why does a 34 year old woman who never ran in her life until three years ago, who suffers from chronic neck pain and holds a full time job while parenting a small child on her own want to run?
I’m reading the novel Love Anthony by Lisa Genova right now. While I love her other novel, Still Alice, far more, I’m still enjoying this book quite a bit and as I sat reading over my lunch this afternoon, I came to a paragraph that sums up why I run. One of the characters, Olivia, is describing how her walks on the beach every day have healing powers on her mind. Substitute the word ‘run’ for ‘walk’, and you have a nice mission statement:
“Walking feels good. It enlivens her brain, convincing scared and buried thoughts that it’s safe to come out of hiding, inviting incomplete thoughts to show their jagged edges, welcoming the wandering and weak. When she walks, her thoughts line up in her mind like white rocks where they can be clearly seen and cared for.”
A few months ago, I was running by myself at the park, and from nowhere (it seemed) the thought popped in to my head: I really hate Bryan. Can’t stand him. Now, in my non-running state, my first instinct would be to feel somehow guilty or ashamed of this thought. While not running, I would quickly back that up with ‘shame on you, he’s Zoey’s dad’, or ‘well, YOU married him, dumbass’. But in my running state, the thought just kind of hung out there for awhile. No judgement. My mind and body together seemed to think it was okay–fair, even– to hate the man who ruined my marriage and has turned out to be a rather crappy show of a father to my daughter. And in that moment of just hanging with the thought, I could feel a little edge of the anger and hate peeling away and floating off to wherever bad, shameful thoughts go when you’re through with them.
Sometimes we run to feel good about our bodies. Sometimes we run to carve out a little social hour with our friends. Sometimes we run because we know there is cheesecake waiting in our near future and a good five miles pre-cheesecake makes us feel slightly less guilty. Sometimes, though, we run to be with our thoughts for awhile and give ourselves a break from beating ourselves up.