Running Is My Religion. Why Do You Run?



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I started running many years ago, and never stopped.

After a traumatic childhood and youth, I escaped to college. Running started there.

It was a distressing time. I didn’t understand life. I didn’t understand myself. I didn’t understand girls. It was all very confusing. And so one day I just started… running. I ran, and I ran, and I ran.

Running I understood. You just strapped on your shoes and you… well… ran. I ran at sunrise. I ran at sunset. I ran in the sun, and the rain, and the snow. I ran on Christmas day. There was never a good reason not to run.

College friends were meeting up to study and hang out. I was running. They were partying. I was running. They were dating. I was running. I ran to work.

After classes in the afternoons I had a part-time job, working in a warehouse. I ran 7 miles to work, worked, and ran 7 miles back to campus. The warehouse manager took a personal interest in me and had a shower and locker-room built in the warehouse where I could keep clothes and shower when I ran to work.

During those college years I struggled to find a clear direction for my life, what I was good at, and what I should do. But I could run. I could put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

A lot has changed in my life since those college years, but I have never stopped running.

I have grown to love running long distances, the longer the better.

There have been set-backs along the way — plantar fasciitis, torn Achilles, and the usual list of running injuries — but I’ve worked through it and kept running.

People often ask me why I run, especially the longer more grueling distances.

I’m not sure if there’s one simple answer to that question.

I feel at home in myself when I run. I experience my connection to the whole. I feel a sense of deep belonging to the universe and all living things when I am running outdoors. I stop to talk with the cows, touch tree branches as I run past them, and keep a running dialogue with the earth beneath my feet, sky above my head, and the river that runs along the trail.

The longer the run the better. It’s a time to think, ponder, and reflect. I’ve written an entire book chapter in my head while running.

Some of my greatest epiphanies and moments of enlightenment came by noticing something that Mother Nature dialed up or set upon my path.

I’ve grieved tragic losses on runs. I’m not sure I would have survived the death of my parents without running. I’ve also worked out a couple heartbreaks on the trail.

I can’t say I understand my running entirely. Am I running from something? Maybe. Do I like pain? Maybe. Am I trying to prove something? Maybe. I am insane? Probably.

For me, running is an experience of self-transcendence. When I run I am testing the limits and challenging the boundaries of what my body, mind, and spirit are capable of doing together. Every run is an adventure of self-discovery and self-creation.

Running is not a thing I do; it’s who I am. It’s life. Pain and pleasure, tragedy and triumph, solitude and companionship, anguish and bliss, human and divine.

The first marathon I ran I did in support of a young girl who had cancer. I loved her. She died and my heart was broken. I still have our picture — which I keep nearby.

I just keep running. I expect to be 80 years old and still going. If you can’t find me, I’ll be out on running a trail somewhere.

I sometimes say, “Running is my religion.” What I mean by this is that running is a way I maintain a vital connection with my innermost self. It reminds me I am intimately a part of the universe and all living things. It’s the divine experience of self-transcendence. It’s a part of my inner work of being a free and whole human being.

There are many reasons and benefits to running. Running clears your head, helps you live longer, improves your mood. It’s healthy “me” time.

Running is a stress buster. It’s right outside your door. It’s an efficient calorie burner. Running lets you catch up on your reading with download books, supports your immune system, helps you meet people. The list goes on.

So, why do you run?

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Jim P.

I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons... even ultramarathons.

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