Running, or probably more like jogging in my case, is not something I ever thought I’d do, let alone get excited about. Throughout most of my life I always had struggles with weight despite the fact that I played multiple sports and danced. I thoroughly enjoyed movement and exercise. But run? Long distance? Scoff, scoff.
My dad is a life long runner and was participating in 5K’s before it was the thing to do, and my brother has always been the uber-athlete, placing first in races while I sat back and wondered, “Why the hell would anyone want to do that on purpose?” For me, it was the equivalent of poking yourself in the eye with a fork. Ewww. Just that statement invokes the shivers in me, yet that is how I felt about running. Why torture yourself?
However in 1997, I went on a life changing, soul searching, transformational journey, and one of the things that really helped me along my path was, drumroll… running! I have been at it ever since. Yep, no one was more surprised than me.
Now, this is not a plea or a call to action for all people to take up a running practice. By all means, try it and you might be pleasantly surprised. But what really strikes me about my running are all the life lessons I gain in the process, and how what I learn “on the course” carries over to my everyday life. So, I thought I would share.
Picture it. Sicily, 1912. Just kidding. Thought I would get a little Sofia reference in there. Picture it, East Windsor, 2020. Here, I’ll give you a visual.
This is the path behind the park and the library in my neighborhood. I love to run there, especially after a rain, because nature is so wonderfully soothing. In the spring, the honeysuckles tickle my nose with a sweet scent, in summer the smell of the earth and greens is lovely, fall paints stunning colors, and in winter the bare branches against the setting or rising sun is a pure delight. In any season, if you time it right, there are plenty of deer to greet you along your way. That alone is enough to lift anyone’s spirits, and I think we have all learned during Corona, when you are feeling funky, get out of the house and be in nature. It’s the best medicine there is.
So last week, there I was, jogging along this shady path, listening to Lizzo, enjoying the morning while passing neighbors and critters alike, and all is well with the world. Damn I feel great. Life is good and I feel like superwoman. Nothing can stop me now!
Cut to three quarters of a mile later as I’m running in the blazing sun. Oh crap. I feel like crap. I am crap. Life is crap. Why did I decide to do this? Why did I hit snooze and not wake up early enough to go before it got too hot? Grrrr, and the misery of the moment and negative self talk comes on full force.
I want to stop. I mean, come on, I’ve done enough for today, haven’t I? At least I got out here, right? But it’s not the goal I set for myself and I know I can do more. So what am I going to do?
This is what I told myself: just be here. Right here, right now, in this moment. Don’t think about what is to come or how much more I have to run. Right here, I can breathe. Right here, I see a gorgeous butterfly landing on a flower. Right here, the One-Eyed Susies are bursting with color. Right here I can wave to a neighbor walking her cute, little Cockapoo. Right here, I am listening the Hamilton cast recording on a gorgeous day. Right here, I just put one foot in front of the other and tell myself what a joy it is to be alive. And when you focus on right here, right now, all the bullshit tends to fall away. When I noticed all the glory that was around me, I forgot to be miserable.
Now, I’m not saying that this is easy. “Right here, there’s a butterfly!” Poof! I’m in a great mood. It takes time, intention, and focus. It takes coming back to it again and again, without judgement. It’s a practice, and it’s one worth having.
I know many of us are stressing about what’s to come, and this runs the gamut of “Will I ever go back to work, will my partner ever go back to work and get the hell out of the house, how on earth am I going to handle remote learning with the kids and maintain my work schedule”…insert your own debacle here.
Here’s the thing. When we stay in the moment, worry for the future can’t creep in. We are doing all we can, right here, right now. And when there is something else we need to tackle, we will tackle it, and be right there in that moment when it comes. It’s okay to keep your eye on the prize. That day, among many others, when running is hard I tell myself, “Just make it to the tree, just make it to the pole…” We can remain positive for the future, but being alive and present to what is in this moment will keep you afloat with positivity and open you to the joy of what is right in front of you.
Who would have known that back in 1997, an out-of-shape girl setting out to run in Central Park would glean insights that would serve 23 years later? That’s not to say that this now 47-year-old is completely enlightened and self-aware. Hell to the no. I have to work at this every day and it’s a process. But it’s so great to know that what happens with my soles on the course, influences my soul everyday.