If running were my boyfriend, we’d be listed as “It’s complicated” on facebook. I like running. Unfortunately, running doesn’t like me. I’m not an athlete. I kick myself in the ankle when I run and my face turns weird colors after my first mile.
Nevertheless, I religiously set and reset each goal, as humble as it may be. When I get bumped out of commission thanks to injuries or illnesses, I eye runners on the road with jealousy, biding my time until it’s my turn to be out there.
The motivating factor behind it all isn’t the noble pursuit of self-discipline and personal integrity, nor is the mens sana in corpore sano mentality at the root of my obsession. I make faces at oatmeal and drink half my weight in alcohol every week.
The ugly truth: I, like everyone else on the planet, am somewhat neurotic, and running is often a way to slow my thoughts down. It’s hard to get wound up when all of one’s energy is bent on detecting the possibility a lung explosion whilst shuffling closer and closer toward that distant horizon (you know, the one we don’t have in Atlanta). Anxiety takes a backseat to not dying, or atleast to conquering that last quarter-mile.
Secondly, there is not much I can do to control the state of things. I can’t even master the recalcitrant power locks on my car. I can’t control the fact that my upstairs neighbors have spidey senses that tingle whenever I fall asleep so they know it’s time to start a fresh game of rugby in their living room. I can’t control that no matter how I try, I can’t talk myself down off the “I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-I’ll-never-get-it-together” ledge some days. Finally, there’s not much I can do about how people treat me-or each other.
However, I can control the amount of torture I put my body through. I can maintain my pace and my breathing. Even when my body is begging for mercy, I can force it to take another step. Then another. And if I can take those seemingly impossible steps, I can take other seemingly impossible steps elsewhere in my life.
My point in sharing about running isn’t to recruit new runners, or to prove that I’m good at it. (I’m really, really bad at it.) I’ve only just returned to running again after a long layoff, and my hamstrings are plotting mutiny. Sometimes, you just have to talk yourself into doing what you know you should do and hope that your message makes good sense to someone else.