The Only Time I Ever Went Running And Felt Better When I Was Finished

I don’t like running. I may have mentioned this before, but I’m going to rehash a couple of things. I’m fairly decent at running. It is good for me. I can always be better at it. I use it with other things such as playing other sports without hating it. However, I’ve never enjoyed running. I know lots of people who find some calming aspects to it, or find inner peace or strength from pushing themselves. For me though, I’ve just never really appreciated the experience of running. I’ve never found myself super excited to be running or to finish running. Usually it’s just kind of a blah type of experience for me. For those saying that I just haven’t experienced the right type of running: I’ve run up to half marathon distances, I’ve sprinted, I’ve done hills, laps, road, grass, parks, country roads. I’ve done obstacle courses (which is still different than just running), I’ve done cross country, I’ve raced by myself, I’ve run in groups, I’ve run solo, I’ve run with just partners. I’ve ran in the rain, in the heat, at night, during the day, in the morning, and pretty much all climates.  I respect people who enjoy or endure running, but it just isn’t my thing.

While I don’t like running, I have had a couple of experiences that were memorable, mostly of the “I can’t believe that just happened” variety. While getting chased by dogs is one thing, it’s usually a lot more memorable to have a cow chase you down a gravel road. Or the time you are running and a high school student pulls up beside you to make fun of you and ends up driving into a telephone poll. On some of the more memorable days in history during in my lifetime I can remember going for a run, such as Sept 11th. I can even remember times I wasn’t able to go running because of personally eventful moments. Yet through all of this running still isn’t something that I enjoy.

I won’t get into the experiences with track and cross country or things like that because the story that I have doesn’t really depend on that. Rather I will say that most of the time the reason I don’t like running is because it feels impractical to me. If I’m just doing it to exercise, there are other forms of exercise that I enjoy more that are equally as effective. Again if I’m just trying to push my physical boundaries there are other things for that as well. If I’m only trying to be meditative or process my thoughts I have other techniques for that. If it is for trying to be in community with others, I think it would probably be smarter to do something I enjoy and have a good time than suffer through just to be with other people. If I’m running just as a mode of transportation, that seems silly. I can appreciate people that get something out of running. It’s just not my thing. With all of that said, there was one moment that I had in my life that involved running that was kind of a big deal.

It was on a summer morning, out on a gravel road, I was about 14. I was at a church camp but was asked if I wanted to go running with some of the counselors. They were getting in shape for cross country and I was going to run cross country or was just wanting to get in shape for soccer that fall so I figured, sure why not. It was probably about 6 am when we started running. After awhile the group kind of broke up by the pace people felt like running at. I was in a group that was going slow enough that we could hold a conversation but not without a little bit of effort. I couldn’t really tell you how far we went, I’m sure at the time it probably felt like 10 miles but chances are it was probably closer to 3.

Yet it was during this conversation that the counselors were talking about what they were majoring in at college and what classes that meant they would be taking. Somewhere during this period they turned and asked me if I had ever really thought about what I wanted to go to school for. Which honestly I had no clue, sometimes to this day I still don’t have a clue how I got from certain moments to other moments. Yet it was the next moment that made this whole experience worthwhile. One of the counselors simply said, “People are going to expect things from you. Those things will not always be the things you expect from yourself. You have to decide whether it’s more important to listen to other people or yourself. It’s your life, you have to live with the decision, but you also get to enjoy the path you take. Just make sure that in your opinion it is memorable, enjoyable, and purposeful.”

Maybe it was the refreshing morning air, maybe it was something more, but for whatever reason I seemed to become more refreshed with every breath that I took. This wasn’t like a runner’s high, this was something greater. It was as if I had somehow just been given the secret to life. Or maybe more preciously I had been given permission to live my life. For the rest of that run I was in something much different than flow or in the zone. I wasn’t necessarily without struggles in the run, but my brain basically went into this really fun space that it doesn’t go to very often. For those of you that read last week’s article this was a very similar state. It wasn’t that I wasn’t aware of time, in fact I was very conscious of what was going on and was even participating in the rest of the conversation. But the whole time my brain was going through all of these new revelations that it had just experienced or was really coming to terms with. If you’ve ever had one of those light bulb moments or epiphanies where things just seem to click and make sense, or maybe a time when one idea inspired another and inspired another, it’s kind of like that. Only instead of one light bulb, it was like every light bulb, ever, was going off inside my head. If you’ve ever watched the movie or the tv show “Limitless” it’s kind of like the first experience the characters have of feeling limitless.

By the time I was done with the run it wasn’t that I wasn’t physically tired, but my brain was just so awake. It was honestly the only time I just felt better after running, yet at least in my opinion it had little to do with running. While I could make some parable story about how sometimes we have to put up with some of the uncomfortable or mundane things in life to get to the good parts, that’s not my real takeaway for this story. I felt better not because of something physical, but because for once I was allowed to just be me. So while I’m sure I could be a great runner, and I’m sure I could eventually learn to love it, it’s not who I am. I am not a runner. I do not like running. It is not who I am. And that’s perfectly okay.

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