The weather was so gorgeous this past weekend I went for a run. I don’t know why. I hate running. I have always hated running. I have been running for the best part of 45 years and I still don’t like it one little bit. I know some people talk about getting a “runners high” from endorphins, but I’ve never experienced it. The closest I have come to that feeling is the pleasure I get when it’s over. It’s a bit like the man who hits himself over the head with a two by four because he likes how it feels when he stops.
So why did I go running? Well, quite honestly I’d run out of excuses not to go. With the arrival of daylight savings time and spring I could no longer argue that it was too dark, too wet or too cold. So the only remaining excuse was I was too lazy, and the only way to prove I wasn’t was to hit the road.
But that didn’t silence the demons in my head. As soon as my legs started moving and my lungs started hurting and my heart started pounding those voices started asking ‘This again? I thought you weren’t going to do this again?”
To silence the voices I play a game with myself, a routine I’ve devised to help trick myself into running. I tell myself this is the last time. Every time. Once I start I tell myself that I’m only going to run a short distance and if something hurts I’ll stop. Of course I never do. I run the same route I always do. Never any shorter. Sometimes even a little longer.
I run along the trail at Crissy Field, along the beach, by the bay, by the Warming Hut and then up the stairs towards the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a gorgeous route. On the way out the bridge looms ahead of me, shining in the sun or shrouded in mist. On the way back the view of the city is spectacular and a constant reminder of how we are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. It’s a pretty distraction, something that helps me avoid thinking about how much my legs are aching or how fast my heart is pumping or how the sweat is stinging my eyes.
Then before I know it I’m done, and as I turn around to look back at the bay and the bridge I realize why I run. It’s the feeling of satisfaction at having done it. It’s the pleasure I get from knowing I’ve done something good for myself. It’s the way it makes me feel alive and healthy.
I’ve actually come to like the way my legs feel heavy after a run, the way sweat sticks the shirt to my back. I love the way that first mouthful of water tastes afterwards, fizzy and refreshing and delightful. And on the way home I stop and get a coffee and that first taste is bliss; strong and bitter and intense, a true reward.
By itself it’s not a big deal. Every day millions of people go for a run and don’t think much about it. I don’t think much of it either. But I do it because I know that it gives my body the strength and stamina to do so many other things that I do enjoy. It means I can walk all over town without being tired at the end of the day. It means I can play squash in the morning, work hard all day and still have enough energy left to go out at night without worrying that I’ll be a wreck the next day.
Over the years I’ve have learned that while I may hate running, the only thing I would hate worse would be not being able to run, not being able to appreciate all the benefits it brings. Now all I have to do is remind myself of that every time I put on my running shoes and that voice in my head says “Oh no, not again”.