Running and I have always had our ups and downs. It was a topic, and issue, that came up in many sessions with my nutritionist and counselor while working in recovery. "If it were up to me, you'd be on bed rest," "you could have cardiac arrest and then that's it. Game over." My nutritionist and I didn't necessarily get along and I never have really stopped running. This did, however, force me to take a closer look at why I felt so drawn towards running, was it really just a means to exercise for me? Or is running an activity that means so much more.
Running in middle school was, I'll admit, an extension of an unhealthy urge to lose weight. It was my first run in with my disordered thinking and I took to jogging lap after lap in gym class as my classmates sat watching and hollering "why are you running?!" I shrugged. In high school, I spent my freshmen year constantly bothering my classmates who were part of the school's cross country team. Even though I had reached what seemed like the end of my disorder, something still drew me into running. I'd ask them what workouts they did, how the team was, how the coach was, what were the races like, how far and how fast. Sophomore year I joined up for what would be a truly challenging and eye opening experience. I ran cross country for about two and a half years and track for one year.
Cross country, and running, really saved me for what could have been a period of relapses and health issues. It was a major turning point of my view on health. For once I saw myself growing stronger, fitter, more motivated. And instead of searching for rib bones, I was delighted to see leg muscles and a strong physique in the mirror. I continued running in college, I got faster, I ran trails nearly every day. During this time, yes my disorder crept back onto me, all the changes in my life left me struggling for the control my disorder seemed to offer me. Now I am working in recovery, and it is a lot of work, and I still run, albeit a little less extremely.
My disorder's reemergence in college has forced me to take a deeper look at the motivations behind running and what I have found is surprising. I love running. I love it for reasons other than burning calories or working out. Running is personal time, time to reflect, to clear your mind and enjoy the world around you. It's a time when your mind and your body can be totally in sync, you can feel invigorated and alive. When I run, I focus on my breathing and it is my own meditation. Each beat of my heart and swing of my arms brings me more peace and I feel alive and refreshed after every good run. Just as in yoga, I try not to judge myself on my pace, my distance or the performance of other runners and instead truly focus on just enjoying the present moment.
Sure running is an awesome workout, but it is also so much more. In running I can see so many similarities with yoga and meditation. It's a time to be in tune with yourself, how you are feeling. It's time to devote to clearing your mind, deepening your breath and accepting yourself and your run just as it is. It's an exercise of mental strength. It has taken me many years to notice these aspects of running and become aware of them, but now it is clear to me. Even through my disorder and recovery, running will continue, at least to some extent, to be an extension of myself. A way to explore and realign in the years to come.