Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Joy of Running

          Today I want to write about something that has become a huge part of my life; running. You might remember that I trained and ran my first half marathon last spring. It was not great training and the half did not go really well, but I finished and it was quite an achievement. Even though during the race, I swore I would never run another half marathon again, I knew it wasn't true. I knew that I just needed to put in better training the next time. And I have. I will run my second half in another week. This time, I have tried really hard to stick to a training schedule and push myself to achieve goals. I ran 13.5 miles two weeks ago (the longest run of my life!) and it felt great. So why do I run? And why half marathons?
         First, I am not really a self-motivated person. I know myself well enough to know that I won't just go out and run if I am not training for something, at least not on a regular basis. By having the goal of a half marathon (one that I have paid a lot of money to run) I have something to work toward. Instead of paying money for a gym or a personal trainer, I pay money for a race and then put in the work needed to run. For training this time, I have included speed interval runs, tempo runs, cross-training, and even yoga! This has kept the schedule interesting as I always am doing something different. I like the variation, but I also like the schedule. Running has become the litany of my week.
         I have to admit, that I am still not fast. I still don't consider myself a runner at all. I still rarely get a runner's high. I am enjoying running more and more, but I don't run for the sake of running, or even the sake of being healthy. I like running for the benefits and perspective it gives me. One of the main benefits is confidence! I ran 13.5 miles the other week... without stopping! This is something I never dreamed I would be able to do, but here I am doing it! I really feel like I am accomplishing something. As a Mennonite, I try to be humble, but honestly, I am really proud of myself. I have been able to set a goal and keep to it to achieve the previously impossible. This feels really good and makes me believe that I can do other things I previously felt impossible. I feel more confident in myself in other parts of my life because what I have accomplished with my running.
          The other part that I love about running is the litany that has developed in my life. This litany has developed a new perspective in my life with habits that I love. First, by going out to run at least three times a week, I have been forced to take time out of my schedule to be. I can't study when I run and I can't work. I have accepted my time running as a gift, as a break from my busy schedule. This is time that I can breathe and reflect. Often I listen to podcasts or music, or sometimes I just make up stories in my head. And this time has become sacred. I don't feel guilty for not doing other things, but allow myself to be truly in the moment.
          This litany has also forced me to notice the outside world. During the winter when I was getting depressed and feeling stuck, I forced myself to go outside. And this made winter seem easier. Cold does not feel nearly as cold when you are running and being outside makes a world of difference when you feel stuck. I still hate winter and I did struggle with depression, but running helped me get through it. And by being aware of the outside world, I got to take in the first signs of spring. I don't think I ever have been more aware of the changing seasons before. The world is really a beautiful place and running has helped me recognize this. This spring, I have seen the leaves grow on the trees and animals come out. I have happened across turtles and ground hogs and now little goslings are out on the Mill Race, my favorite path. As I see this new life around me, I feel new life within me.
          I do feel healthier. Along with my whole-foods, plant-based diet, I am the most healthy I have ever been in my life. I feel like I am finally in charge of my body and thus my life. There are many reasons I am at a good place right now in my life, but I think that running has been a huge influence. I am excited to run the half marathon next week and even more excited to continue this habit of running. I hope that I can keep it up in the years ahead and that it will continue to provide me health, confidence, and intunement with myself and the world around me.

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