Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 218 - Why Run? - Free Therapy

Part 5 of 5, at least for now, of my take on why runners run so damn much.

From the great Gary Larson

A good run alone is the cheapest and best therapy I know of.

If I'm angry, or upset, a good run leaves me calm. If I'm stuck, after my run, I'm free.

All of the regular runners I know are amazingly calm, genuine, together people.

There's something about being outside, away from the usual distractions, out of your cocoon, breaking a sweat, and the rhythmic pats of your feet and puffs of your breath that opens your mind.

Sometimes you need to run away from something. Sometimes you need a run to get through something. Sometimes a run will help you move forward, and sometimes a run centers you, and helps you see things more clearly, to find perspective.

But the real magic happens if you've been ignoring, or in denial about, something. I'm really good at compartmentalizing those things, putting them away and pretending they aren't really anything. But get me 2 or 3 miles into a good run, and WHAM! There it is. Front and center. And there's nowhere to hide. I've been stopped by such an emotional ambush, literally from a good clip to a dead stop, as if it were an invisible wall. It's a jolt, and it's not comfortable, but something about the run let's your subconscious pop this stuff up to the conscious mind. And recognizing it, knowing it's there, is the first step to understanding it and dealing with it.

I think that the vigorous nature of a good run warms up not only the body, but also the mind. And just as warm muscles move more freely and with a greater range of motion, so too can the mind relax it's barriers and open it's field of view.

I'll be honest. It wasn't that long ago that when I most needed a good therapeutic run, when things were twisted and gnarled in my head and in my heart, I didn't run. I was afraid to. I didn't want to face the thoughts and the feelings that I'd neatly filed away. And then locked the drawer. And then buried the file cabinet. It was easier, and safer, for me to stay at my desk over lunch, or sleep in.

I think it's a similar strategy of ego self-defense that leads a lot of people who need it to drop out of regular therapy. They get too close to the truth and they're afraid of what that truth might be. They've spent years hiding their truth, even from themselves. So they cancel appointments, don't return calls, and make excuses. Maybe one day they start over with another counselor. Until they get too close.

Self awareness is one of the most wonderful/terrifying aspects of the human experience. Understanding who you really are, who that person is behind all of the social masks and the protective layers of well-meaning delusion, is liberating. But getting there is difficult, and sometimes painful,and sometimes scary. But without that awareness, your time on Earth is a big lie, a dream.

Hence the streak. For me, it was the only way I could think of to force myself into daily therapy. And the only way I could afford it.

Good running,

Numbers: 5 miles on asphalt with Marty.