My Drug Is Running

I ran today for the first time in just over three weeks, the length of time I’ve been battling a nasty cold which began with a cough then settled in my sinuses. This morning’s run was short and slow, but it felt great. Tomorrow I will do it again.

I’m a terrible runner. Though I’ve completed a handful of marathons, I’ve never done one without walking part of the way, and never brought in a time under four hours. I’m sure my technique would make a track coach weep. Plenty of people have told me running is unhealthy and needlessly hard on the joints, especially the knees. Indeed, my back and my left knee do occasionally give me trouble. Nevertheless, running makes me feel good. It is both physical therapy and mental refreshment. It is my emotional stabilizer.

From elementary through high school, I never participated in any school sport. I dreaded gym class. I was one of the only three or four boys I knew who never joined Little League. Riding my bike was my main form of exercise, that an assortment of neighborhood games that closely resembled Calvinball. (Readers of “Calvin and Hobbes” will understand.)

Then when I was 19, I let a roommate, Wally, talk me into running with him. We lived near Revere Beach, just north of Boston, so the run was scenic and pleasant, in spite of the fact that Wally was a good six inches taller than me and it was all I could do to keep up with his long strides. I’ve been running ever since. I don’t listen to music while I run, and other than Wally, my running has been almost entirely a solo activity. It’s my alone time, even when surrounded by thousands of other runners in a race, which these days is much more likely to be a 5k or 10k than a marathon. Also: I run outside as opposed to on an indoor track or treadmill. Enduring four seasons of Iowa weather is part of it.

Life undeniably comes with problem, worries, and frustrations. We all need to find ways to cope. There are bad coping mechanisms like drugs or alcohol, but there are plenty of healthier options. Running is mine.

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Barefoot Voosk

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