My dear friend, Fiona Ostler, recently posted a question on Facebook asking friends what helps them find peace and balance in their lives. Up until the last year of my life, I would not have answered, "running." I always thought runners were a little crazy. Running was boring and hard and I never enjoyed it. I don't know what changed. All of the planets must have aligned perfectly at the exact moment to tip me into this new world, but, because I am me, I have to write about it.
Running helps me find peace and balance because it is boring. And I don't get enough of that kind of simplicity in my life very often. So here's a list of reasons I run:
1) It's me time. I don't take the kids running with me. I have a double jogging stroller, but I rarely use it to train, except in the most dire of circumstances. When I run, nobody needs anything from me, and I love that. It's rare and precious and not to be discounted.
2) I get to take a break from thinking about things too much. Once I get my body in motion, my legs keep up the running on their own. For some reason, that continuous movement settles my brain and quiets that voice in my head that is, otherwise, almost constantly churning thoughts. Funny, though, how much more I sense when I'm running. I hear insects, birds, wind, traffic, leaves rustling, water flowing, sirens, people talking. I feel the pavement or dirt beneath my feet, the sun on my back, the wind on my face. I smell the most delicious flowers, fresh-cut grass, car exhaust, dust, but only when I'm running. I am part of the outside world almost without being sentient, and I love losing myself in it.
3) I need the daily sense of accomplishment when I finish the run. It's not just an endorphin rush, although it is that. I feel like I've done something worth doing. I've used my time well.
4) Sometimes it hurts and it's hard. I plan a run that's too far or I get tired halfway through. Sometimes my clothes chaff and I have to pee and I can't swallow because my throat is so dry from running. I still get side aches occasionally, although my friend, Kristy, told me they would go away if I kept at it, and she was right 99% of the time. Sometimes it's too hot or too cold, the wind stings my face and makes my eyes tear up and my nose run. Sometimes I use up all my energy on the way down and then I really struggle to get back up the hill. But just because something is hard doesn't mean it isn't worth doing. Running is a good reminder that the good things in life require a lot of sweat and tears. Well, I sweat a lot. And I cry some, too. And all of that brings me peace.