By Johanna Carney, Staff Writer
I have this love/hate relationship with running. I hate running; but I love being a runner.
Don’t get me wrong. There are days, when the wind is softly kissing my back, the sky is a perfect cloudless cerulean, and the only sounds to be heard are my own breathing and footfalls, that I feel like I could run for miles and miles.
But most days aren’t like that. Let’s face it. Running is hard, and there are many days I have to push myself out that front door. “It’s still chilly; I’ll go when it warms up a bit.” “I just ate, I’d better give the food a little time to digest.” If I let myself, I could come up with and endless litany of excuses to stay in the house and on the couch.
I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. Most people aren’t working out because it feels so good in the moment, because it doesn’t.
So why do we do it? Why do we battle sore muscles, shin splints, and the like? Why do we drag ourselves out of our warm beds long before the sun has even begun to touch the horizon? Why do we struggle to keep putting one foot in front of the other, slogging through mile after mile, sweating and straining and hurting, always hurting?
I can’t speak for everyone, of course. When I asked my sister why she runs, she told me: “I run because it makes me feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally.” A work friend told me that he and his wife both run to keep their heads clear.
For me, that’s the key. A run does good things for me. When I get out there all alone, and my legs and arms and lungs are doing their thing, my mind begins to untangle. Sometimes I feel that if a run was long enough, I could solve all of my problems and the rest of the world’s as well. The demons that chase me can be outrun, if only for a little while.
The more difficult a run is, the more concentration it requires. And like most middle-agers, my brain can only focus on one thing at a time. So the petty annoyances from work today? Forgotten. My to-do list? Put away for now. All that matters is the path ahead of me and the single-minded determination it will take to, in the immortal words of Dory, “Just keep swimming”.
Running is a singular sport. I’ve never been a natural athlete; you wouldn’t want me on your team. But that’s the thing about being a runner: you don’t have to be good at it, you only have to be persistent. Even in local races, you’ll find that most runners are only competing against themselves. Sure, there’s a winner in every class, and bringing home a trophy or a medal is the perfect end to a race well run. In most cases, however, the clock is our competition, and hitting our target time or pace is our single goal.
When that happens, that’s when the magic begins. If I tell myself that I’m going to run nine miles today, or that this is the day I’m going to average below eight minutes a mile, and then I crush that goal, I feel like a badass! I feel like the Wonder Woman version of me! Who couldn’t use the boost of self-confidence that comes from learning that your body can do things you never thought possible, that the limits you can push yourself to are further than you imagined?
And so, I run. I run to let my mind wander. I run to escape the world for a bit. I run to challenge myself, to push my body, to find my limits. And I run to feel more like, well…me.
Someday scientists may create the magic pill that calms the mind, opens the heart, and frees the spirit. Until then….I’ve got to run.