I’ve run on and off for the past ten years. I started back when I was 17 for very basic reasons: I had met a girl. I had awful shoes which weren’t even made for sports, and I ran through mud infested woodland paths for a few months fighting stitches and lungs. Things ended up going well between the both of us, but I had stopped running.
When we broke up a couple of years later, I took to exercise again. This time I had real footwear, though it wasn’t far from the cheapest kind possible. I was going through some tough thoughts and often ran the university tracks near midnight before trying to sleep. During this time I realised that running also gave me a lot of time to think. With few distractions and no excuse not to, I often ended up feeling much more level headed after.
The next summer I had moved into a flat near the center with a friend, and with non-existent student job prospects, I decided to run seriously for the first time. I mapped out a 10km path which followed the canals and river to the outskirts of the city and back, and ran this calm and scenic route most days for three months with better shoes.
During my thesis a few years later, I decided to try and develop a real running habit. With less free time, I decided to run home from work every other day, following an almost identical 6km path. I ran all through the year, through winter and snow even, until running downhill took its toll on my back.
Last year was the last time I started again. I’ve run at least once a week since, following a 12km route along the canals in the other direction from an appartment right in the city center. I don’t skimp on running shoes anymore, since my feet started aching in bad footwear. I can feel a bad run in my knees and my back has shown displeasure a few times too, but I don’t ever want to stop again.
I didn’t start out any good at running, nor do I consider myself an example now. I sometimes overtake people, but I often get passed as well. I’m definitely not as good or as crazy as the Neistats who run marathons or the Inmans who run ultra marathons and lose toenails. Running helps me stay fit, but what I value the most is the hour during which I am forced to think without any distractions. No notifications, no devices, no problems or tasks I need to push forward. As I said to my advisor once: “Before a run I usually want to give up and leave. After a run I have two or three new ideas to try.”
Running is therapeutic and I don’t think I could do without it. It makes me feel better about myself and gives me a feeling of accomplishement, but I have almost always run alone. From time to time someone would join me, but often they would give up sometimes because of an injury, but often because they never built up the habit. I enjoy discovering a new playlist of music or a new album, but sometimes I don’t want to run alone.
I understand why people don’t take up exercise, especially running. Nobody is instantly good at running. I fought to build the habit because I knew it would do me good, and I progressively learned about the psychological benefits of this quality time. I understand that people think they don’t have the time, but as for many things in life, the time has to be made.
I have rarely finished a day better than when I ran late in the evening. I’ve yet to manage to run in the mornings, but I do plan to force try it out seriously once winter has passed. Nearly none of my friends actually exercise regularly, and I often wish I shared this experience with those around me. While it is beneficial, it does ends up making me feel apart, and it makes me wonder why others aren’t making the most of exercise.