Why I Run: Part Three

Trail near Missoula, Montana

This is part three of a series answering the question of Why I

My life is full of noise. There is the near constant hum of a machine working to keep me at my desired temperature and the sounds that manage to penetrate the insulated boxes I live and travel within. My field of view is noisy with messages to buy this or believe that. There is the noise that I invite in, like the radio I’ve turned on that I’m not even listening too and the stream of texts, status updates, and emails that I allow to fill my days. And that is just the external noise.

Internally, the noise can be even louder, a barrage of thoughts and feelings, self-critiques, and observations about everyone and everything, creating a cacophony of distorted realities. The days pass with my mind continuously turning over the past, planning (or more likely just worrying about) the future, or jumping from distraction to distraction in an attempt to stop thinking about past and future. All of it is just noise.

But there are moments when I am running when all of the noise drops away. The quiet of the forest envelops me, and sometimes, if I’m fortunate, my internal chatter settles like debris drifting to the bottom of a still pool of water and for brief moments, there are no more thoughts. At these times, there is nothing but the sensations of my body moving with every living and non-living thing surrounding me and there is no separation between any of it. Thought becomes irrelevant, the past and future merge into the now. This is why I run. I run to find the silence where all is one.

30 Mile Jitters


Runner in fog

 Today I’m going to run 30 miles. I say this not in boast but in a state of nervous trepidation. Suddenly my knee, which has felt fine for the vast majority of my training is giving a dull throb, there are butterflies in my stomach, and the tightness of worry across my brow. Every muscle seems tighter than I would like it to be.

I have chosen a challenging course to run for the 30. My mind won’t let go of the idea of modifying it to something easier. I want to be excited, but am too obsessed with thoughts of pain and suffering.

This is what must be faced on the road to running 100. Doubt, dread, nerves, the sensations your body presents you with to try and convince you that maybe this isn’t such a good idea. When you know your body is capable of something, then the mind becomes the only thing preventing you from accomplishing something. Let’s hope that today, I am stronger than my mind.

The Day I Became a Runner. Again.

Pile of running shoes

This is a piece written back in May. I had been in an intense period of training during the fall of 2013, culminating in four ultra marathons in four months including the Lookout Mountain 50 Miler and Mount Mitchell Challenge. After the last event in late February, I took an intentional, and much needed break from running that lasted until the day I wrote this.

Yesterday I Became a Runner Again.

It was a short, three mile jaunt around the neighborhood. The small hills felt hard, yet somehow exhilarating. The pain in my left Achilles tendon was still there, though I had hoped that the two month layoff would cause it to disappear. I felt slow, even awkward at times, a baby taking tentative first steps. All this, but most important, I felt like me. I am a runner.

Moving over land by my own power, shifting my body position as the terrain rises, falls, and undulates before and underneath me just feels so right. After the tumult of a stressful week, to run again brought tears to my eyes. Running is my release; release from whatever weight is bearing down on me. It is a lifting, at least temporarily, of burdens. It is how I return to myself.

“I used to be a runner”.

This had been my ongoing joke with Mary every time we had seen someone running during the last few months. The break did make it seem as if that had been another person, another life. Yesterday, running again, I was again amazed to think that I had done this activity, that at this moment felt so difficult on a flat paved trail, for fifty miles up and over mountains and through the slop of rain drenched earth. Who was that fool? That fool was me. The best parts of me. The part that does not mind putting in long hours and working hard to achieve what I set out to do. The part of me that will keep pushing through, even though the task is difficult and the end result may not seem worth it in the moment. The part of me that can find joy and happiness in the midst of suffering. The part of me that knows that whatever difficulties I may be facing will pass if I just keep moving forward.

I am a runner again.