Recently, I’ve found myself running again.
Certainly not as often as I used to, and without the data to analyze (my Garmin band broke in JanuaryWhat’s Next: Teacher, Writer, …? and I’ve yet to replace it), but I’m still running anywhere from 3-6 miles 4 times a week.
It’s funny, as much as I start trying new sports or fear I’m moving away from running— this sport that has defined me in so many ways– when I take a second to step back I realize that I am, often, still “running myself back to myself.”
I was re-listening to the episode of On Being that I was fortunate enough to be featured on last year. The episode (especially the parts beside mine) is such a beautiful testament to what running does for the soul. It always makes me think, but this time through I was struck by Roger Joslin’s note that, for him, running was sometimes the only way to make him feel different than he did before.
That’s when it hit me– running has always had such transformative powers for me. Of course, the other sports I’m doing force my presence and change me, but running has a way of restructuring my DNA a little. It forces me to check in with my breathing and myself. It inevitably turns me into an adventurer. I still make it a point to explore new places and see new things while running. Even as I run the same Magic Island path for years, each time through allows me to experience the people and the place a little differently than the time before.
What has really hit home recently, though, is the cyclical and circuitous nature of running. So many of my workouts are linear: we show up, we work, we end up at a new place, skill, or PR. Running, though, is cyclical– the repetitive steps running the same paths day after day force me to consistently evaluate where I am, what I’m doing, and how my body is feeling in that moment. It can also give me the space to physically zone out a little and turn my focus inward.
At the end of the run, I always come full circle. The thing about running is that once you run to a place, you more often than not have to run back. Running forces me to do the work, put in the time, but also find a way to get home at the end of the day. As far as I push myself outside my own comfort zone, I always know my body will bring me back home.
So, I’m in an airport on my way to Orange County and eventually to Montana for the month, spending a month at Carroll College for an NEH fellowship. I’m excited not just to learn, but really to explore. I’m excited to find new trails and, just maybe, find my way home in a whole new way.