“For every runner who tours the world running marathons, thousands run to hear leaves and listen to rain and look to the day when it all is suddenly as easy as a bird in flight. For them, [running] is not a test but a therapy; not a trial but a reward, not a question but an answer.” – George Sheehan
At some point, running was not exercise. I don’t know when it happened. I first ran as a high school junior on the cross-country team because I wanted to play a varsity sport. I stopped running in undergraduate school and the early years of work. Running found me again as a burned-out, out-of-shape mid-lifer.
Running found me again.
Maybe that is when running was no longer exercise. In his book Running & Being, George Sheehan discusses running as an “imperative that comes from inside you and not from your doctor. Run if you must.” If you don’t hear that voice, do something else for recreation and play. Run if you hear that voice inside you compelling you to run.
When people learn that I am a runner, they tell me how running is a great exercise. Often, these are non-runners. If you are reading this journal, you likely see running as more than exercise. Running is playing. Some adults play tennis, soccer, or golf. You and I run.
Play brings you joy and escape. You get lost playing the game, trying, and exploring new ideas. It does not matter if you win the game because winning is playing the game – and really winning is playing it for as long as you can. You exercise with a goal: time, distance, or calories. You can play for a purpose, but you can also play, and commonly do, for joy. You can play and find yourself lost in time like a child whose parents call them home or rush them upstairs for bedtime.
When my son was young, I coached his soccer team. We were not supposed to keep the score at the games, but the kids did. They knew who won and who lost. As a child, adults told me that how I played the game was more important than winning. I did not understand until I was an adult. I tried to teach my soccer kids that winning was not about one game. It was playing the game so that you can continue playing for as long as you want. It was about sportsmanship and teamwork, so others will want to play with you in the future. It was about growing as a player to appreciate more of the game and share with others.
Running can be a lifelong companion. You do not always need to win or hurry to the next milestone. If you do, running may not want to play with you. Instead, running can be a friend that grows with you and challenges you.
Best wishes on chasing your running goals.