I’m an introvert. That bit of information tends to surprise people who don’t know me very well. While I can be a social butterfly, enjoy a new social setting, and value meaningful conversations and adventures with friends, I recharge my batteries in solitude. When I am intentional about that time to re-energize is when I am my best self around others.
I’ve been a runner for nearly six years now. And it wasn’t until this morning, on my long run through the windy and leaf-covered trails of my favorite state park that I realized all the reasons that I run stem from my personality.
Why do I run? In a nutshell, I run to challenge myself. For understanding. To find solutions. For strength. To push myself towards a better version of who I am. For peace. And so much more.
I am never more true to myself than when I am running. Every thought that comes through my mind is unfiltered. Each step comes from deep within. Every breath is a reminder of the miracle of my very life.
As an introvert, I need time to myself to process, to think, to analyze, to be. And running provides the most perfect forum for that. Society, work, friends, and communities fade away somewhere during that first mile, and all that is left is me. The distracting chatter has vanished, relationships with others are irrelevant at that point, and I’m free. Because of this, I never feel more alive than at the end of a long, difficult run. While my feet may be a wee bit tired, my mind is clear and my soul is energized.
My next race is an eight mile trail run. Last night, one of my roommates asked me how long I was planning to run today. “Nine or ten miles,” was my answer.
She paused and thought for a moment. “Isn’t that longer than your race?” I nodded. “So…,” she continued, “Why would you run that far?”
It’s a legitimate question when looked at through the lens of training. There are different theories about how much one should train, how many miles is too much, when to stop increasing mileage to prevent injuries, and on and on, but it’s safe to say that most training plans for distance races don’t have the runner do a long run that is longer than the race itself.
But when I look at that question through the lens of what running is to me, my response becomes, “Why wouldn’t I run that far?” If this is the time of the week when I have uninterrupted time to think, to stop thinking, to enjoy the beauty of the world around me, to be myself and nothing less, why wouldn’t I run for as long and far as I can?
This isn’t to say that extroverts can’t be runners. But I would venture to guess that their reasons for running often differ from mine. And that only further highlights the wonder of this lifestyle (I use this word intentionally because if you are a true runner, it’s not for the sport and it certainly isn’t for the fitness. It’s an integral part of your life and something that is almost necessary for your existence). There are so many different reasons that we run, and each one is equally as valid and meaningful as the next. I run for peace, you may run for energy, someone else may run for community, and yet another may run as a means to dispel anger. That the same action can cause so many different reactions is incredible.
And all it takes is to put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time. If only life could be that simple…oh wait. After a good run, it is.