The urge started about a week or so ago. At first I thought it was because the weather was turning nicer….I mean, who doesn’t want to be outside enjoying a beautiful Spring day?? But there was always something else that I needed to do..or a yoga class I needed to get to…so I ignored the calling.
Today, though, something happened and I decided to stop ignoring the urge. After searching for longer than I should have had to, I finally found my running shoes. I hadn’t put them on in months. Well, I’d worn them to Cross Fit for a while until I bought real Cross Fit shoes…but that doesn’t count. Putting them on for the purpose of running hadn’t happened since…last Fall?…sometime in PA.
So I grabbed my music and headed out. Not sure why but I thought I could pick up right where I’d left off…um, not so much. Sometimes I forget that I’m getting older and recovery time — from a lot of things — takes longer than it used to. My “run” ended up being a “walk/run/walk/run” for about 30 minutes. I’ll cut myself some slack and take pride in the fact that I did it. I started running again. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow to see if this is going to become a regular activity or not.
After I got back…and finally cooled down…I found myself contemplating why I run and trying to figure out why today was the day I started up out of the blue. What was behind that urge?
I’m a runner by nature. It’s what I do. My entire life I’ve run from one thing…one person…to the next. Never really slowing down or being present…always on the go. Whether physically running around from meetings to calls to airports to appointments to you-name-it, I was on the move and usually running around mentally as well. Bouncing from idea to idea, struggle to struggle, conversation to conversation…trying to pull all the data points together to make sense of the direction I was heading. And then there was how I exercised…I ran. Of course, I did. It was all I really knew how to do…until I finally found yoga. (Probably more like yoga found me…but anyway.)
That always-on-the-go mentality worked nicely with actual running. When I ran, I’d crank up the music really…really…loud and tune everything else out. I’d let my mind go wherever it needed to go…to bounce from thing to thing…eventually leading me to an a-ha moment or quieting down to the point of relaxing into the music. Whichever outcome was perfect. I was lost in the run. And that’s how I lived my life…lost in the run.
But lately my life has been vastly different. There’s been no running from thing to thing…or person to person, physically or mentally. I’ve been more present these past 40-some days then I have ever been. I’ve been doing yoga almost every day….working through my shit…facing aspects of myself that I’ve kept hidden away. So why the need to run today?
Turns out that doing yoga and being present requires a level of focus that forces me to keep my brain from bouncing all over the place. In yoga, we use the breath to focus the mind. If it starts to wonder, we’re trained to deepen the breath to purposefully grab the mind’s attention away from whatever thought it was chasing.
And the very act of being present means tuning into what is happening right now…in front of you…and not letting the mind wander down back alleys or take off on its own. It’s about keeping it leashed…engaged…alert.
I’d been doing such a great job of being present and in the moment that I wasn’t giving my mind what it needs….the chance to run free on occasion and connect the dots that might not otherwise get connected. I needed to let it roam and explore some new crevices and side streets, untethered to a specific purpose.
Heading out on the run, I was cranky. I felt caged…locked up by own doing…restless. After the run, I felt like myself again. I felt present…free…open…happy. And I was left with a couple of questions — questions that I’ve been struggling with since retiring — “Why is everyone running?” and “What are they running to or from?”
I know the answers to those questions for me. Those two questions were the catalyst for me deciding to retire. The realization that I was so busy running that I was missing out on everything that was important to me resulted in the conscious decision to change my life…to put my energy and focus where I wanted it…where I felt it needed to be. To be purposeful with my intentions. My life was going to be more than a bank account…nice clothes…”things“. It was going to be about people that I care about…experiences…”moments“.
I know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to do that…to make that kind of change. But now that my eyes are open to it, I can’t help but see so many other people running and it breaks my heart. I know every person is different and each person is here for a different purpose, but I can’t believe that anyone’s purpose is to work themselves to death. What’s the point in that? Even if your a surgeon of some sort, you’re no good to your patients exhausted…spent…depleted.
Life is about balance. Finding that sweet spot that allows for you to provide for yourself and your family, yet leaves you rejuvenated, fully engaged, and present. I had to retire to start my search. I’ll slowly be layering back in other more traditional aspects of life. I had to do that because I recognized how I was broken…useless to myself and those in my life that were important to me. I no longer had the energy to run from anything…or to anything. I was stuck….and that’s no way to live.
So, my question to you…Why are you running and is it worth it?