Apparently yesterday was "National Running Day." Or so Twitter says. I didn't even know such a day existed until a few days ago.
In honor of this day, I decided to do something that would make me happiest. I saw Philly group runs posted all over facebook. I saw running sales, and run happy hours, all neon and flashy and exciting. Everyone, everywhere, seemed to be all "O-M-Geee, running is the best, I heart running!!!" But when I considered what I really wanted to be doing on a day devoted to running, it didn't involve group runs or happy hours or any other human beings, for that matter. I knew I wanted to be trail running.
So I headed out into the woods and I found some trails I had never run before. I ran to forget the mental and physical exhaustion I felt all day. I ran to relax my brain that worked hard all day, and to invigorate the muscles that sat idly at my desk. I ran to feel the earth under my feet and the overgrown greenery whipping at my thighs, calves, and face. I ran to feel everything and nothing at the same time.
And I couldn't stop repeating that mantra throughout my run,
"everything and nothing."
When I run, my body comes alive. All of my physical senses are heightened to the maximum level, and for the first time all day, I feel 100% connected to my body. I skim the trails, gliding over rocks, roots, and streams, as if it's what I was born to do. I feel every spider web that I dash through, every prickly weed that cuts a thin, red line on my skin, and every bead of sweat that trickles down my spine. I feel everything.
Simultaneously, I feel nothing. I enter a meditative state that only occurs while I am running in the woods. All fear and anxiety slips away as the miles tick by, and soon enough, I am calm. My focus is external, concentrating only on where my next step will take me, and deciding which path to take when given the choice. Long gone are the daily worries of bills, work, and other mundane life tasks. I do not ruminate on the past or try to anticipate the future. There is only one focus, and it is the present.
A lot of people ask me why I run, and they usually follow up by asking why I choose to run so far. I think running is similar to any other drug or addiction, but running generally influences the individual positively instead of negatively. Some people use drugs to enhance their senses, and others use drugs to numb their senses. Running has this magical capability of allowing you to feel both everything and nothing, simultaneously. Ultimately, once you've experienced that feeling (or lack thereof) for long enough, you crave it more often, and more intensely.
Whether it is running faster or running farther, we are all looking to re-live the high we felt the first time we had an amazing run. Some of us get it by smashing a 5k personal record, and others by running 50 or 100 mile races. My "drug" of choice is running all alone in the woods on new trails for the very first time, like I did last night. All I know is that when I'm running trails, I feel like I am home, and that is an addiction worth having.