The Running Drug
The trees outside my window waved vigorously, their movement dissuading me from any outdoor time. I checked the weekend temperature, and 30s looked back at me. But with my cycling partner Felkerino under the weather this weekend, I was left with a window of time to do as I pleased.
While the lure of the couch was strong, I struggled into my workout clothes and threw some shoes on my feet. The ongoing threat of holiday parties combined with a fear of diminishing my Iowa cred (which I note is likely already lost by 30-degree temperatures in December serving as a deterrent) guilted me out the door.
I set my fitness goal at five miles and started my Garmin to keep me honest. My cold stiff body ambled down the road like the Tin Man and I counted the minutes until I’d be back home, finished with my run and reunited with the sofa.
Miles passed and my body loosened up. I felt like an appropriately oiled Tin Man now. As I ran, my brain furiously processed, my fingers ached with the winter warm-up throbs, and my feet kept padding stubbornly forward.
The overcast chilly day could not be considered inviting, but the conditions made the roads quiet. A steady crosswind pushed into me and I anticipated turning directions. Step step step.
As sometimes happens, my mind shifted from thinking and words and my day-to-day life. I drifted into a meditative state, with my body nice and toasty despite the cold of the day.
The five-mile fitness run I intended became a 12-mile meander around town, because I wanted to spend as long as I could chasing this self-supplied sensation. I suppose it’s what others call the runner’s high, and it intoxicated.
I’ve never been a competitive or particularly good runner, but I’ve liked it ever since I took it up in high school. Running is so simple and basic, and it can unlock my head unlike any other physical activity I’ve tried.
It frees me to overcome inertia and take the first step of a run by myself on a cold overcast day, while others hole up indoors. To move completely unassisted empowers. And when I sync my mind with my body’s effort and meld with the day’s conditions and the space around me, a rare and pleasurable experience emerges.
Maybe I won’t always be able to run. People say it’s hard on the body, it can wreck your knees, blah blah blah. But I will run as long as I am able – not just for fitness, but in hopes of releasing my mind and the running drug.