A Runner’s High

The past little while has been somewhat of a roller-coaster — some great times and some miserable times. It’s hard to say if the high and the lows correlate, but they are certainly near each other. Today featured a pretty bad low. I’ve heard really good things about sensory deprivation tanks and I thought that it would be a great experience to visit one. Well, comfort quickly turned into discomfort. It was a feeling very similar to how one feels when they have insomnia — I was restless and my mind raced. All the negativity and doubts came to the surface and I felt like I had to fight them hard to just stay afloat (sorry).

I came to some realizations in that tank, the kind you would get from simple free meditation. But there was a bigger realization in there, that maybe I need to do less meditation as such and just do more things. I feel like meditation is good for gaining some much-needed control over the mind, but it doesn’t seem to bring me beyond neutral. For that, I need actions. Every good action that I’ve taken has brought me to a higher level somehow.

When I went home, I somehow felt worthless. The realities of my life over the past year came crashing in like giant waves from the ocean of despair. I had a sense of dread, a sense of panic, like I would lose everything. It was hard to recall all the good times I’ve had. It’s mostly irrational, but it felt real. As far as meditation goes, it did nothing here. So I decided to do something crazy, instead. See, I’ve been trying to live a more courageous life. I decided to do at least one courageous thing each day, whether it’s in the morning or later. On some days I end up doing 2 or 3 such things, and even though it’s quite difficult and somewhat exhausting, it feels just right.

I hate running. I’ve always been quite bad at it. When I was a kid in elementary school, I had trouble running 600 meters. I was almost last among kids in my class. I was made fun of for this. Later on I was able to run more and faster, but I never ran more than 5 kilometers in one go. I felt like a heavier man like me shouldn’t run long distances. I’m a sprinter, I tell myself. I always tell people that I suck at running and it doesn’t feel very good.

That’s a lot of self-talk, a construct of the mind. Have I actually tried running farther? No. What’s the longest I can actually run for? I put that to the test tonight. A ridiculous distance. But I didn’t really check it beforehand. I wanted to surprise my body. And I fucking did. I ran around the downtown core in Vancouver. It’s about an 18 kilometer route and it took under 2 hours to complete.

To put that into context, that’s about 3.5 times longer than I’ve ever ran before. That’s nearly a half-marathon, which is something people specifically train for. Last time I ran was a 2.5 kilometer run about 3 weeks ago. I do some activities requiring some cardiovascular endurance, but nothing crazy. This was almost pure willpower and stubbornness.

I started at my place near the Burrard street bridge and ran around the downtown core in a counter-clockwise manner, passing the stadium, running up towards Waterfront station, around Stanley park and back down through English bay. The scariest part was once I really approached Stanley park and realized that I’m getting myself into something serious. The next scariest part was when I turned the corner and saw Lion’s Gate bridge. Oh my god, it was so far away. Passing it was some kind of accomplishment. Then I made a mental reference to the map and realized that I’m still a long way from home.

At 2 kilometers from the finish line, my body finally started to give up, but I survived. I’m sure I’ll pay for this in the days to come, but it was worth it. This is something I’ve never ever done before and people usually train for it. I’m not good at running at all, but I still did it. This act feels so way out there outside of my comfort zone that I’m kind of in shock and disbelief that I actually did it. And the best part is that I can’t undo this now. It’s something that will remain as part of the record of my life. This is why we need courage, probably more than anything else. Otherwise we won’t have the experiences we wish for.

A whole month has passed in the last week. It has been a test-drive of a more courageous life. Many thing that happened had a very movie-like quality to them. Sometimes things were just so beautiful. Sometimes they were a nightmare. Things felt really out there. If you decide to do one or more courageous things every day, you will certainly experience a different life. And I think that’s wonderful.