If you’re reading this you either like running far too much or you are one of the ten million Americans (many more millions worldwide) who has picked up the sport in the past six months. So, why’d you do it? What drew you to running? Allow me to share my experience.
If you’re anything like me, being quarantined in your home for too long makes the thought of staying there another minute longer than you have to give you goosebumps. My gym closed and I wasn’t about to spend tons of money on a Peloton bike I’d never use. (Yeah, I know they're great. And I still don’t want one.) But I had workout clothes. I had shoes. I had a desire to stay fit.
I viewed running as a bit of a metaphor: one foot in front of the other was progress towards more precedent times. How many times have we heard that lately? “In these unprecedented times…” Frankly, I was a little sick of it. I felt like all of these people were not giving us enough credit. I don’t need a gym to work out. I like it. But what I like about it is staying physically fit. I’ve also heard more times than I like to count that staying physically fit is one of the best things we can do to help ourselves in the event we contract COVID-19. Well, that is reason enough for me to get out and go for a jog. And again, in all honesty, I didn’t want to look like all I had been doing was sitting on the couch for six months when we can finally go back to the office. One foot in front of the other towards more precedent times.
What about those “uncertain times.” Yeah, that one got to me too. You know what is certain? Running. It’s hard. And I’m not much of a runner. At least I don’t think of myself that way. I live in a city with a well-trafficked waterfront full of folks who identify as runners. At least I would guess they do. When I’m out there doing my thing I can’t help thinking, “How’d they know their chosen form of exercise was going to be so damn convenient in 2020?”
Some people make running look easy. Some people make running look really painful and hard. I probably skew more towards the latter and that’s fine. But dang, running can be beautiful. I’d never thought of it that way before now. Before being out here every day, at roughly the same time, with mostly the same people. We’ve begun to become familiar, myself and these runners. We nod our masked faces at one another in a sign of acknowledgment and respect. We are all out here together trying to make ourselves better.
I am proud of my ability to change with the times. Never would I have guessed that I could run for a full hour. That was never my intent. Recently I was sharing with a friend that I had been running. This friend and I had lost touch over the previous few years. But therein is another great thing about this pandemic: time to reconnect. Maybe more on that later if anyone is still reading. But this friend emailed me the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling which ends:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
No offense to any women or those who don’t identify as male, but I loved this sentiment. It is now my mantra when those runs get long and my mind wanders back to the gym. Just fill another minute with 60 seconds of running. Pretty soon you’re done. And that much is certain.