I am a runner.
I was a runner in Junior High. I was a runner in High School. I was a runner as a missionary in South Africa. I’ve run hundreds of miles over the greater Provo area. I’ve run two marathons, one 10k and many 5ks. I have more races on my list.
I’m not a very good runner. I never really was. Despite my years of running Cross Country and Track, I was never on a varsity team. I never won a race. I never lettered. I wouldn’t have made it onto the BYU Track team. My best mile time (as a sophomore in high school) was 5 min 11 seconds. Good, but not great.
I don’t even really like running – that is, the physical process of throwing up one leg and putting it down in front of you, then doing the same with the other leg, over and over.
For 4 hours in a row, sometimes. It just gets old.
And yet, being a runner is something very important to me. It’s something I hope to do for the rest of my life. Running does several positive things for me… things that are essential to living my life in a full and sustainable way.
First, when I run, I am alone. This isn’t often a desired outcome for people but being a deliberate person and an unashamed introvert, I enjoy having personal time to think and calibrate. In the busy daily schedule of work, church, family, meals, logistics, following the news, personal projects, etc., I usually don’t have the time or bandwidth to ask myself the most important questions: How’s my life going? Am I prioritizing things appropriately? Am I Am I still living according to my principles? Do I have goals? If so, how am I doing on them? If not, what goals should I set? Are there bad things I should stop? Are there good things I should start? Am I missing out on opportunities? Is my life in balance? I have found that these quiet moments of distraction free self-reflection are the times when I am most open to ideas and inspiration on changes I ought to be making. Where would I be without these regular meetings with myself?
Second, I run for my health. I have a goal to live to age 100. Running is a great workout for sustained health – I’ve seen enough 70-year-olds cruise on past my exhausted frame in the middle of a marathon to attest to that. It’s a consistent way to do aerobic exercise, keeping your heart rate up for hours at a time. That means good cardiovascular heath (and cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death worldwide). As for me, my health risk profile says that when I die it will probably be from cancer. Running is my anti-cancer (along with abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, and excessive red meat – funny how the inspired Mormon code of health, established in 1833, fits perfectly into the Mayo Clinic’s research regarding cancer prevention). What’s more, it’s a behaviorally effective way to exercise. Unlike lifting weights (which I also enjoy), or doing elliptical machines, you can’t just give up when you get tired. If you do, you are still 5 miles away from your house.
Third, running helps me learn and explore. Sometimes when I run, I listen to podcasts on a variety of topics. I learn about advances in my industry, economics, design, investing, and spirituality. All these things give me perspective and expand my mind. I also get to explore the running routes. I explore neighborhoods, cities, rivers, and highways. You often see things while running that you don’t normally see when cruising by in your car. I like seeing those things.
And fourth, as a bonus, unlike joining a health club or a gym, running is free.
Today I went on a run. While I ran, I realized many things about my professional progress and the next steps I need to take. I received flashes of insight, some inspired from this phenomenal episode of a podcast I was listening to. I got lost (A feat, in that it’s hard to get lost when you are running on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. It’s one-dimensional. It’s like getting lost playing classic Mario brothers). As my 8 mile run turned into a 13 mile run, I had many opportunities to explore. I saw a yellow caterpillar, discovered a hidden wooden owl, and got smacked in the face by a butterfly. Not bad for an impromptu half marathon with no water.
So while I’m not that good and the process may be tedious. I keep on running because my life is benefited in so many ways.
(Note: Huge thanks to my brother Jeff, who has been a big influence on my running activity today)