My older sister and I are about as different as two people can be. We always have been, even though we are fewer than two years apart. Throughout our lives, we’ve had different circles of friends, different tastes in music and clothing, and somewhat different lifestyles. Neither is better than the other; simply different. We were introduced to running together as kids, and my sister quickly emerged as a sprinter, while I, much slower, competed in long distance events. As we grew older, my sister’s interest in running faded, while my races got longer as I found in running finally a place where I belonged. My sister has supported me in my races through the years by coming out to cheer and sharing words of encouragement even when I know she may not quite “get” why I like to run.
In a recent conversation, I was telling my sister about my current training and goal to run 100K in twelve hours this summer. She asked, “What do you get out of running that much? Do you just enjoy it, and that’s why you do it?” In short, yes, I enjoy it, and that’s why I do it. But I also enjoy watching movies and reading, yet I don’t do those things with the same gusto and intensity that I devote to running. Perhaps because I view those activities as a temporary escape, whereas running feels more like a conduit towards gaining freedom from the things that I allow to afflict my spirit.
For me, running is the most freeing activity I can imagine. It requires minimal equipment, no special training, no club or gym memberships, and no teammates or partners. It’s easy to keep up while traveling, and it can be done spontaneously, without any planning or preparation. Of course, there are all kinds of gadgets and clothes and training plans and running organizations of which one can choose to partake, but as an activity alone, running is as basic and as freeing as it gets. A pair of shoes, for some of us a decent bra, and we’re all set. It’s usually through running that I achieve my greatest moments of clarity, find solutions to the challenges that arise in my life, and let go and ultimately feel free of the things that otherwise keep me from moving forward. I have especially found that source of release through my running in the last few weeks as I have worked through a difficult time.
No matter how much we may believe otherwise, some things in life just aren’t meant to be, and the faster we are able to accept that fact and move on, the more likely we are to uncover the things that are meant to be. It’s easy for us to spout off platitudes like this to the people we care about when we see them fraught with disappointment or pain, but when it comes to admitting this truth to ourselves- and actually believing it- somehow it seems impossible. We patiently wait for the days and weeks to pass, pounding out miles on the pavement, searching for answers and hoping that time really does heal, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the passage of time does nothing, and the more time that goes by, the more we feel confused and lost, and then we feel angry at ourselves for feeling that way, because after all, time has passed and shouldn’t we be healed by now?
Sometimes we have to be more proactive than that and make a conscious effort to regain control of our emotions and lives and forgive ourselves for feeling the things we don’t think we “should” feel. Sometimes it takes putting aside our pride and realizing that we have nothing to lose by trying something different, which may ask us to leave our comfort zone. If it doesn’t work out, we are in no worse a position than before, passively waiting for time to work its magic.
Sometimes, when we go out on that limb, having faith only in knowing that we have made a genuine effort to take care of ourselves, we surprise ourselves because the outcome is not at all what we expected, but in a good way. We suddenly feel lighter, because a heavy load has been lifted. Our spring has returned to our stride and we find ourselves smiling once again. Our motivation has come back and we run faster and more smoothly, ready to conquer the day. We feel free, because we have finally begun to let go. And then we realize that after all of those miles of ruminating, our running shoes have worn thin and we are badly in need of a new pair. So we go out and buy some more so that we may be sufficiently armed and prepared for the next hurdle that life throws at us.
Thank you for reading!