If someone were to ask me, “Why do you run?” I might find it difficult to answer. The most obvious response, of course, is that I run simply to get some exercise. This would be true if my workout routines were like those I used to do.
In the past I’ve taken classes in Yoga and Pilates. I’ve tried muscle strengthening on various machines at the gym. I’ve taken rides on my bike (and I still do, occasionally). These were ways of getting the exercise I needed—but only that. Nothing more. And I had to fortify myself with self-discipline just to do them. I had to think: Do it and be done with it.
Running is different. Walking out my back door, with my sports watch attached to my left wrist and my spi (small personal items) belt stuffed with emergency protein bars, I look forward to another day’s run. I feel grateful for this moment because I know that the quality of my life would be compromised if I could no longer perform this every-other-day routine.
So, I’ve been wondering, what is the deeper significance of running for me? To help me answer my own question, I grabbed my journal and tried to uncover this mystery. Here’s what I came up with:
Running is different from anything else I do. I spend a lot of time sitting and writing and planning. As a chaplain, I spend time talking with patients, assisting them as they work through difficult emotional issues. Running allows me to let go of the emotional heaviness I pick up from my work. It gets me moving. It provides balance in my life.
Running keeps me growing. When I run, I challenge my body to do more than I ever thought I would—or could. I work to improve my time by a mere few seconds. I stretch out my run for an extra half-mile. I look forward to completing another 5K race. These all give me a push to keep striving toward my goal. My next goal, by the way, is to run in a 10K race. I like growing as a runner.
Running has a transcendent quality. The transcendent quality of running affects me physically, mentally and emotionally. As I run, I release the stressors of daily life. I let go of a difficult situation or stop planning my calendar. I am freed from the tension of having to think about anything at all. I let my mind go, moving from thought to thought as the wind brushes back my hair and cools my face. New energy fills me, releasing fatigue.
Running opens up my world. When I run, I find myself in the miraculous beauty of nature. I’m in the midst of trees, flowers, and other vegetation as the paved trail stretches out before me. This is where I love to be. I feel connected to something larger and beyond myself. My world expands. And when I run in races with other runners, most of whom run better and faster than me, I feel connected to them as well. I know that they, too, enjoy this demanding sport.
Running is a spiritual practice. When I run, I enter a space in which I sense so much goodness–in life, in nature, in the world. Such a space connects me to deep-down gladness. Connecting to others, setting and reaching goals, letting go of concerns, and embracing the goodness around me—all this brings me joy. Perhaps this is the deepest reason why running is so significant to me. I run because I desire to live with joy, and running helps me do that.
Joy has the final word.