There are certain patterns in my life that I’ve come to know as true and predictable. Running is one of them.
I run out of frustration. I run in times of weakness. I run to release negativity.
In college I would run to escape from the personal issues in my life. It was the only time that my head cleared and the thoughts stopped circling. During some of the hardest times I remember running campus multiple times a day- just looking for a way to lose my breath and lose myself.
When my life reaches a crossroads and a decision must be made that I’d rather not make, one I know will cause me heartache, there are two ways to deal with the aftermath. I can go up, or I can go down.
Throughout my teenage years I went down. I dealt with emotional pain through synthetic highs, and in the end I was just as broken and as weak as when I began, if not more so. Years of trying to avoid how I felt never made me any better or any stronger. There was never a healing point.
When I found myself at a similar point in college the same thoughts crossed my mind. How can I avoid feeling internal pain? What can I use to cover it? How can I escape this reality while still existing enough to function?
I remember having breakfast on the Cowell College balcony one morning after class with a girl I had just began to develop a good friendship with. She was training for a marathon and when I asked her what motivated her and how she had decided to make this type of commitment she explained to me that a few months earlier things had completely ended with the first guy she had ever loved. He had been more than just a boyfriend to her, he had been her best friend and they had transferred to the same college to be together. When things didn’t work out once they got to Santa Cruz, her life suddenly was filled with a giant empty spot. For weeks she felt weak and depressed and obsessed with the thought of being with him or what ifs. She admitted that she knew all along that once things ended there was no going back, so dwelling on what once was was useless. And then one day she woke up and told herself enough. I’m tired. I’m tired of being sad. I’m tired of wondering. I’m tired of wanting. And most of all I’m tired of feeling weak.
And she started running.
She said that running was the first place to build strength. It was the first place to set a goal. The first way to accomplish something.
She explained that during heartache you’re going to feel emotionally weak for a long time. And it’s much harder to heal what’s on the inside, that what’s on the outside. She knew that it would be a long time until her heart felt strong again, but in the mean time there were other ways to feel strong.
That’s when I started running. It was incredible. Sometimes I would just circle the track for an hour, gazing out at the Santa Cruz bay and boardwalk each time I started a new lap. Sometimes I’d run through the woods on the trails, hearing students above me on the bridges that held campus together. When I started running three years ago I was at the lowest point I had been at in a very very long time. And during that half hour to hour that I would run, was the only time I could find peace of mind.
And then when things got better and I found happiness through my relationship again, I stopped. And this has been a vicious circle. I don’t stick with it when I’m not upset. When I don’t feel weak.
It’s like people who relapse when something in life upsets their stability. I relapse into a runner.
I’m running again because I’m at another crossroads.
One that there is no escaping.
And one that must be confronted.