FROM THE PENGUIN CHRONICLES ARCHIVE: READ MORE
There are hundreds of reasons to start running. The litany is familiar to all of us. Running promotes better health, a stronger heart, a more finely-honed physique…
Those who have been runners most of their lives may not know exactly why they started. It just seems that running has been a part of who they are for as long as they can remember.
For those who come to running later in life, the reasons for running are not always as lofty as health and fitness. Some of us started running because nothing else eased the pain of living.
Some of us came to running not out of a sense of accomplishment and pride, but as a last resort. We turned to running for healing, safety, security and nourishment. We came to running not out of success, but out of failure.
As I’ve come to know more runners I’ve been touched by the stories of what running has meant in their lives. Many are running from tragedy, from divorce – running, truly, as if their lives depended on it.
This was certainly the case for me. My 40th birthday came and went. The mid-life crisis I’d heard about seemed to have missed me, or so I thought. I had achieved my way into a lifestyle of excess that was weighing down my body and spirit.
The signs of success were all there – a frustrating job, a floundering relationship, the dismal prospect of pushing the same stone up the same hill for eternity. Relief came only in moments of mind-numbing self pity induced by too much food or drink.
Making my life increasingly complex wasn’t working. Adding layer upon layer of responsibility and debt had produced only the trappings of upward mobility. I discovered that I owned very little of my life. Most of what I turned to for comfort and reinforcement actually owned me.
Time to run
It was time to get back to basics. It was time to rediscover the joy of earlier years. It was time to find myself. It was time to run.
How amazing it was to set off on an odyssey of self discovery without a guide, with nothing more than my body and my mind. What I was going to learn was not to come from a book or the words of a teacher or therapist, but from my own feet. Each step would reveal a new insight, a new thought, a new feeling.
Freed from the shackles of a life of convenience, I learned quickly that my body could be my friend or my enemy. Pushed gently, it would reward me with speed and endurance. Pushed too hard, discomfort became pain.
I also learned that my spirit was not as broken as I thought. Digging down deep for the final 200-yard kick of a 5K, I unleashed an almost primal energy. Struggling, weary and exhausted, through a five-hour marathon, I hit a vein of emotional strength that I thought was all dried up.
So if you see me running wildly through a race, don’t be worried. Don’t be surprised at the sight of my persistent and plodding style. Don’t expect the smile to ever come off my face.
I have seen my failures. I have faced them as best I could. And now, Im running from them as fast as I can.
Waddle on, friends.
An Accidental Athlete is available in print and ebooks versions now. BUY THE BOOK
What others are saying: Because of runners like John, the wall of intimidation has crumbled, and tens of thousands of Americans are now believing in themselves. John has helped raise self-esteem and self-confidence in people all over the world. Nothing is more important to a person’s well-being.- Dave McGillivray, Boston Marathon race director