First, here’s my preface:
I don’t consider myself to be a “runner.” I don’t run regularly. I don’t run fast. I don’t run far. I probably don’t even do it right. I will probably end up with debilitating arthritis in my knees and two broken feet from a terrible running stride. But I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy doing it, and here’s why:
I don’t run for exercise. I run for my mental health. Nothing, absolutely nothing, clears my mind like going for a run. Even if the run itself is going badly and I feel like my feet are encased in concrete and I’m miserable and slow and can’t breathe, I’m not thinking about whatever-it-was I was thinking about before I started. I’m thinking about how awful this run is. Honestly, though? Nine times out of 10 that feeling-of-awfulness is quickly replaced by just not giving any fucks. Because even if I ran approximately 0.003 of a mile over the course of 8 hours I just did something instead of letting myself get buried deeper inside my own head. That is the point. That is why I run.
The cleared-head thing is a wonderful reward in itself. Sometimes, though, it gets even better than that.
Take last night for example:
I’d barely slept the night before, and ended up sleeping until past noon. Then I’d spent most of the day inside, took a nap too late in the day that lasted too long, and made only half-assed attempts to interact with anyone. An iChat convo with BFFF and a quick trip to Target with Juanita broke up the day, but that was it.
Anyway, I was feeling pretty yucky, head-wise. So at about 10 pm, I decided I’d go take a walk. Full disclosure: I had every intention of walking up to the store for a bottle of wine. Because that’s how my brain works sometimes. Lovely.
But as I was leaving my apartment, I took a right turn instead of a left. And as soon as I hit the sidewalk, I started running. I sort of giggled to myself at first, because I swear that was not my intention. Something in my brain – the self-preservation part, I’m sure – clicked on and took over and yup. There I went.
And I kept going. I just floated on through the intersection where I usually slow down or stop altogether. And that’s when I knew something Good was happening.
This is an analogy I’ve thought of before, but haven’t shared: to me, running is like sex. I know right away whether I’m going to get there. I know within the first few seconds whether my brain and/or body is actually into it or if it’ll be a mediocre, semi-satisfying, experience. I’ve tried to trick my brain into thinking things are going well, but it never works. I try to imagine great runs I’ve had before and conjure up those feelings, but I just can’t force it. I mean, I realize it’s not always going to be fantastic, but I’m almost always able to derive some pleasure from the experience.
Sometimes, though, I have an experience like last night’s. I felt like I was fucking flying down the road. My pace was good, my breathing was completely under control, my legs were light. I felt amazing. Just fucking fantastic. The brain-clouds parted and I just… no words. I hear people talk about a runner’s high, and I don’t know if that’s what I experienced, but I do know that I certainly felt like I was on another plane of existence for awhile there. Like, whoa. I started doing that thing where I internally narrate what’s happening to me, because I couldn’t wait to tell my gentleman friend how fucking awesome I felt. (side note: when I actually spoke to him later, all I could say was ‘mmmm. it was good,’ and make grunts of satisfaction into the phone. I am a sparkling conversationalist, let me tell ya). I rode that wave long after I came home. It. Was. Awesome.
If that isn’t good for one’s mental health, I don’t know what is.
And now for an appropriate clip: