Running, for me, began as a way to stay in shape — a way to burn calories, and maybe tone my legs in the process. Running has a low cost of entry: no membership fees, no fancy equipment needed. You put on sneakers, go outside, and run. We all know how to do it. Children know how to do it. You can complicate it by considering things like proper posture, alignment, gait, and foot-strike, but you innately already know everything you need to know about running. Pick up your feet, one in front of the other, run. Let your arms be relaxed. Don’t hunch your shoulders. Breathe.
It only recently occurred to me that running has, over the years, become something so much more to me than physical exercise. It’s become my stress relief. It’s become my confidence-booster, my mood-elevator, my source of joy (and sometimes pain). It’s what I turn to when I need that rush, that flood, that charge of the endorphins that make me feel alive. They re-invigorate. They make me feel appreciation for every muscle in my body that pushes me through the run, for my feet, for my thighs, for my lungs.
They make me appreciate the simple act of being able to walk out my door, and take in the wonderful, beautiful world outside the walls of my house. The crunching of the leaves, the grittiness of the sand beneath my feet, the sharp sting of the winter wind against my face, the fragrant scent of beach roses, the taste of salt coming off the ocean and settling on my lips, the warmth of the sunshine causing beads of sweat to drip down the back of my neck, the thick air condensing on my skin, the cool and surprising refreshment of rain.
I can walk out that door angry, tense, with the wheels of mind spinning, with the walls closing in. And then I run.
Just a few miles is all that’s needed.
And then: they rush in. Fast. All at once. I’m dowsed in them. That high. That relief. That sudden, yet fleeting, elation.
I am alive. The world is beautiful. And for those two things: I am grateful.