It isn't all good

Running isn’t all good.

I know that may be a surprise to those who read my stuff. I’ve shared many worthy stories about how running has enhanced my life and the lives of other people. These have been stories of strength and perseverance, of courage and tenacity, and of hope and peace.

But running isn’t all good. There are five drawers in my dresser. Two of them are cluttered with running clothes, meaning the other three are cluttered with all the things a normal person wears. A runner’s wardrobe has to be diverse, which brings me to another bad thing.

In Maryland, there are about 30 days a year with weather that’s perfect for running, which means about 335 days are less than perfect. Of course, there are various degrees of imperfection, ranging from annoying to unpleasant. And then there are the downright awful days, not fit for man nor beast, but forced upon a runner. If a run is on the schedule, it will be done no matter what is falling from the sky or blowing in our faces.

The one bad thing everyone understands is this – pain. We have lots of it, but the kind non-runners think about doesn’t last very long. The heaving discomfort of an unfit body goes away; but runners like to push themselves, and it hurts when we do.

There is stiffness. Our muscles, used to motion, don’t like sitting. So when we rise, the first few steps are troublesome. We do our best to act normal, but inside we know everyone watching is thinking the same thing – how can this guy run when he can’t even get out of his chair?

And then there’s the unmentionable issues, things we can’t talk about with people who don’t run.

Inevitably, though we do everything we can to avoid it, we will be miles away from the place we started, and nature will call. Not in the way we all hope it will, with soothing sounds and beautiful landscapes, but in the same way it calls to the guy who ate too much Mexican food. And that guy only has to walk a few steps to get to the bathroom.

In the winter our noses run faster than we do. Wiping is a matter of preference; sleeves and gloves are options. Inevitably though, we miss some, and unknowingly carry the smears around on our cheeks, only to become aware when we see our disagreeable face in the mirror.

In the summer, we smell. It’s fine as long as we stay together, but in isolation we stand out. When we wait in the check-out line with our bottle of Gatorade, everyone knows the source of the unpleasant odor. It’s us.

I could go on, talking about how hard it is to fit runs into busy schedules, how boring we are when we talk about running, but you get the idea. Running isn’t all good.

So why do we do it?

I can’t speak for all runners, but on behalf of myself, here’s why.

I run because it makes me better, not better than anyone else, but better than I’d be if I didn’t run.

I’m more calm. Running sooths my emotions, let’s me get rid of the muck that accumulates day-to-day. I think more clearly too, so problems don’t linger when I’m running.

I’m more sure of myself. The small, daily accomplishment helps me feel good about myself. When I overcome all the obstacles running presents, I feel capable.

Running reinforces the principles I like to live by. Work ethic, discipline, and perseverance and handy habits.

I know what I’m like when I can’t run. I’m better when I can.

Life isn’t all good either. I probably don’t have to elaborate for you to agree.

But here’s the thing – dwell on the challenge and the challenge gets worst. Decide to move yourself forward, and something remarkable happens.

Conditions are never as bad as they seem. Challenge is never insurmountable. What seems impossible isn’t.

I know I’m lucky. By many standards, my life is charmed. But I’ve seen enough hardship to know there’s one thing that will never get you passed it – cowering.

I don’t’ mind the weather. I don’t care if I end up with a little snot on my cheeks, or if I feel stiff getting up from my chair. I don’t even mind the pain, because I know that once I put myself in motion, I can do anything.

So can you.