Thursday, January 22, 2009

What does running do for you?

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.” - Jim Valvano, 1993

Lately I've been in a reflective state--thinking heavily about my life, what's important, where I came from, where I am and where I'm going. As a still-relatively new dad, I realize that life is no longer about just me or us (Anne and me). It has a much larger meaning. I'm thinking about that larger meaning.

For a time after Noah was born I wondered if high-mileage running would be feasible anymore given the many responsibilities of being a father and husband. Beyond a strong commitment of heart and soul, I now have a big commitment of time. I wondered if the time would be there to run as I'd run in the past few years.

But then I realized that running is far more than a commitment of time, and it's no selfish pursuit, either. It's about far more than lacing up the shoes and putting one foot in front of the other in pursuit of my own goals. Running helps make me who I am--and who I am is who my family needs me to be.

Running brings peace amid the occasional chaos of life. When I'm out the door, problems disappear, if only for an hour or so, and I return home with a new sense of calm and better perspective.

Running provides quiet times of reflection. Life often gets so busy that simple reflection takes a conscious effort. When I run, I have time to reflect. The other day on a run I thought about my dad and how his example has been a "how-to" guide for me as a dad.

Running provides friendship. Most of my closest friends today are fellow runners who I see every Saturday and/or Sunday. But it's more than that. Like any runner, I can go to any race and even if I don't know anyone there I'm still surrounded by friends. We runners enjoy a unique bond.

Running has allowed me to figure out what I'm made of. Whether at mile 20 of a marathon or mile 80 of a 100-miler, I always learn at these critical junctures in a race what I'm made of. One's character often comes out in times of great stress and suffering. And I've come to realize that, amid my flaws, I have strong character and the courage to endure.

Running gives me the perspective I need to make big decisions. With no distractions and only the sounds of nature and my moving feet, many of the biggest decisions I've ever made in life have happened on my runs along the country roads and trails of Chagrin Falls. Sometimes I come back home, sit down and tell Anne, "I thought about X and here's what I think we should do...."

Running consumes my excess energy. I am full of energy--maybe too much. As a kid, I bounced off the walls. My early-morning run takes off the edge, making me just tired enough to sit at my desk at work and focus on what's in front of me without a flood of distractions flowing through my brain.

Running allows me to plan my day. If I have a busy day at work, I often plan my day on a run--laying out the priorities and figuring out ways to accomplish or make progress toward each.

Running brings emotion. My emotions often come out in private. I remember last April being on a country road near home at about 6:00 a.m. and coming upon a big field. I looked to the east to find a magnificent sunset. At the time, Noah was only a few weeks from arrival and we'd just learned he was breech. I was dealing with a lot of emotion as I worried about Anne and Noah, thought about fatherhood and, oh by the way, trained for an approaching marathon and 100-miler. When I saw that rising sun I thought about Noah and, man, the emotions flowed.

Running brings out my competitiveness. I know some good runners who log respectable times but lack the competitive spirit. Running allows me to tap my competitive spirit. Too many adults have no outlet for their competitive spirit and so they channel it in sometimes unhealthy ways--stepping on others at work, etc. Running gives me an outlet for my competitive spirit because I know each and every outing is designed to get me toward a goal that centers around competing or accomplishing something ambitious. And then come race time, I go Dr. Jeckyl-Mr. Hyde--the very competitive me comes out.

So I run knowing running makes me a better person for those in my life. Those of us who have such a pursuit--be it painting, cooking, building model airplanes, etc.--I guess we're the lucky ones. What does running do for you?

I'll end on this note:

1 comment:

  1. Running seems to make me feel like I added more to my day. When you think about it, it does actually add quality to the way you spent your time, overall. I agree with everything that was said on this page. But rather than give me time to think about things, it lets me clear my mind completely. It's a wonderful feeling to be able to forget everything that constantly passes through your mind in one day and just r e l a x.