Monday, May 14, 2012

Running as catharsis

My first brush with running (for recreation, not induced by fear) came while I was embroiled in the process of writing my comprehensive exams. I imposed a daily work stoppage at 9:30pm and went for a long walk afterward to cook down my brain so I could get some decent sleep. I noticed that, after a few minutes of walking, that when I had to cross the road against a light--a long story but it makes sense if you know the system of traffic lights in London, Ontario-- that the 'running' part of crossing the street was incredibly comfortable and felt great!

When I finished my comps at the beginning of June, 2009 I left London for the entirety of the Summer and took up residence in a friend's home in Toronto. I spent my 'Summer of Sloth' recovering from the 28-day exam nightmare and come to terms with the implications of my impending 30th birthday. I didn't have hangups about turning 30 but my friends did and, somehow, their anxieties transferred a bit too efficiently onto my already addled mind.

In advance of my birthday, and in the wake of a nerve-wracking exam month, and a nervous episode from late Winter, I decided to take up running. It seemed as common a grad student trope knitting or baking but significantly more healthy. Knowing full well that there must be some sort of elaborate process to start running, I researched running programmes and the like. I settled into one that seemed to work, I consulted with a running person on a proper pair of running shoes (as per my colleagues' suggestions), and I started.

That Summer I had a purpose, I devoted my energy to waking everyday at 6:30am to run. It was a short route, but, given my general physical state of disrepair, it was long enough. Over the Summer I lost a lot of weight, the symptoms of my hypoglycemia disappeared, and I felt happier. Not just cheery, but I felt like the world was a happy and good place again. It changed my world view. I'm not being melodramatic here, I really experienced that kind of change in mood. Also, I am loathe to discuss such personal matters, but my libido had an awakening the likes of which would startle legions of church ladies the world over.

After the Forest City 5k, time of: 31'58"
My sense of accomplishment and self-
satisfaction peaked just prior to the photo.
I continued my running schedule when I returned to London in the Fall and I continued running over the Winter at the school gym. I decided on a whim to enter myself into a race in the Spring. The Forest City 5k was my introduction to organized running races. I didn't enter to win or even to place, just to finish. Even finishing a race would be a significant accomplishment for me. I told a few friends and my family and they were all surprised if a little skeptical.

I lined up with two of my colleagues and got ready to go. I finished the run 31'58" later. I've been told it's a respectable time. Even getting through it encouraged me to pursue running further and I started training for a 10k later that Fall. The combination of an extended visit home in Nova Scotia and a nasty flu kept me, literally, out of the running and I lost a great deal of momentum after that.

For the next year I was kept away from running and I felt that the hobby that I once clung to as a source of relaxation and mind-cleansing was getting away from me. This Spring I resolved to get back into it. I started running again in March when the weather in Toronto got warm.  I broke out the sneakers, the shorts, got a cool running app for my iPhone and hit the pavement again. After experimenting with different postures and strides I found a combination that worked for me. I've made a point of running every other day no matter my location (Toronto, Montreal, etc.) and keep track of all my stats. The results are, thus far, encouraging. Already my endurance is coming back, my speed is decent, and, most importantly, my body feels great afterward and my spirits are greatly improved.

I am going to do whatever it takes to keep my momentum with running. I regret that I got out of the habit but am looking forward to a long Summer season on the sidewalk and the park trails.

1 comment:

Jax Leo said...

Thank you for sharing. Run ...