I remember that night so clearly. It was a perfect, North Carolina summer evening – warm enough to be outside with only a tank top and shorts, but not too humid so as to make breathing unbearable.
I was at a concert of an incredible musician with friends that I loved, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t appreciate it for more than a minute or two at a time before the intense waves of hurt and disappointment came crashing through and threatened to pull me under faster than a rough riptide. Earlier that evening, a good friend of mine did something that hurt me emotionally in a way that very few people have. I was deeply hurt and I was disappointment in myself for letting this person’s actions have that much sway over my emotions. Throughout the concert, I acted like I was paying attention and enjoying the show, while inwardly I vacillated between wanting to throw dishes at a wall and curl up on the uneven grass beneath my feet and just cry.
I wound up leaving the concern early and got home just before midnight. At this point, I was equal points seething at my friend and frustrated with myself. I can’t remember the last time before that I did a midnight run (college, maybe?), but the instant I got home, I started putting on my running shoes almost without even thinking. There was a four mile loop I often ran, and autopilot kicked in once I was outside, one foot moving in front of the other.
Truly, it was a beautiful night. The air had a tinge of briskness, the cicadas were playing their symphony, the trees were still a deep green above me with the stars twinkling through, and it was just me and the pavement. I remember wanting to stop and just break down a few times during that first mile – to stop and let the hurt and the pain overwhelm me, to beat myself up, to give up in general.
But I didn’t. I kept moving, kept running.
And then a funny thing started to happen. Just over a mile into it, my thoughts somehow started changing. I started to remember who I was, what I was worth, and what I wanted. I started to put the situation in perspective, and I realized that although I couldn’t change what had happened, I was able to decide how it would impact me and what I would do moving forward. And even before these new thoughts entered my consciousness, I started to feel stronger with every single step in a very tangible, measurable way.
People rarely ask me why I run. They often ask how long I’ve been running, how far I run now, or if I’ve run a marathon. Those questions are easy and can be answered in just a few words.
When someone asks me why I run, I usually pause and assess why the person is asking. If I think they’re just making small talk, I give them a true answer, but perhaps one that is less personal. “I love having that time outdoors” or “It give me time to just be quiet and think” are some answers I’ve given that fall into this category.
if I gave someone the real answer, though, it would be so much longer and give so much more insight about who I am and how I work. I don’t think even this list is a complete answer, but since I need to go to bed at some point tonight, it’ll do for now.
I run to think. More often, I run to make time where my brain isn’t thinking at all.
I run to challenge myself.
I run to push the limits, and then push those new limits some more.
I run to work through problems and issues in my life.
I run because that runner’s high is real.
I run to form new friendships and deepen existing ones.
I run to beat my goals.
I run because it’s hard.
I run towards solutions.
I run to discover my strengths.
I run to grow.
I run to keep my sanity.
I run because it’s fun.
I run so that I can sleep at night.
I run not from emotional pain, but through it.
I run to appreciate all the small things in life.
I run to grow stronger.
I run to develop discipline, which then manifests itself in all areas of my life.
I run for me – to work through who I’ve been, to honestly assess who I am now, and to determine who I want to be.
I run for those who can’t.
I run to quiet my mind.
I run to find peace.
I run for freedom.
I run because I can.
I run because I love it.
I run to keep the rest of my life in perspective.
I run because it makes me the best me I can be.
After I finished my run that night last July, I laid back on the trunk of my car and looked up at the world. The stars shone more brightly, the trees smelled even more fresh, the cicadas sounded more lovely, and the world felt so brilliantly alive. I laid out there for a good while taking it all in, grateful not only to be able to run, but that such a simple act could remind me of my inner strength and encourage me be a better me.