I am a runner.
Since I started college (when, to meet a PhysEd requirement, I took Jogging with the girl from my floor who was to become one of the best friends I will ever have), I have been a runner. In retrospect, there is something ironic in that, since I steadfastly resisted running as an activity for the almost-19 years leading up to it, willing to do it only if threatened by a failing grade in gym class.
There are some, maybe, who would tell me that I’m not a real runner…because I don’t “train,” I don’t have a fancy running watch, I have no idea what my average pace is (nor do I really care), I don’t run in races, and on and on. Don’t get me wrong…I don’t think there is anything wrong with any of that. More power to you if those things motivate you to go further, to go faster, to get better. It’s just not for me. I can’t run with a goal…I have to run solely for the sake of running, or I won’t do it.
What I do is this: I stuff my feet into running shoes, put earbuds in so that music can keep me company, and I’m off. I try not to overthink it, not to figure out ahead of time how far I’m going to go or how fast. I let my body figure those details out as it goes along. When I start out, I like how my body is moving faster through the air than usual, how the impact of my feet on the ground reverberates gently upwards through my body. It’s usually very early when I leave for a run, and there’s something slightly magical about being out there alone, knowing that people are just beginning to stir and contemplate the idea of starting their day. I imagine they are cozy, and somehow I feel that coziness myself, even though I’m already up and about.
A bit later, after my body has started to settle into the movement, I love how my breath feels different, now a much bigger thing inside my lungs. I love how my body is moving on its own without my having to tell it to go, having settled into the repetitive movement. I feel strong. My mind begins to clear. Nature surrounds me, and it is a sort of moving meditation.
After I have finished running, I love how my muscles feel tired, but with an underlying energy streaming throughout my body. It’s satisfying. I feel calm. Ready to face whatever the day brings.
I run because I always feel better afterwards. I run because, when I do it regularly, when I make it part of a near-daily routine, I am a better version of myself. I run because it brings together all the disparate pieces of me, and I simultaneously feel powerful and calm and brave and open and real and grateful and and and. It’s a wise swirl of energy, and it lifts me up while keeping me grounded.
Morning runs are one of the great pleasures of my life. I don’t worry about how far I go, or how fast. None of that really matters. Because when I run, I feel like me. And that is all the sense of accomplishment I need.