Running Through Life
Running is more than a competitive sport: for
many it's the key to a healthy lifestyle.
The great twentieth century philosopher, Joseph
Campbell was a miler in college. Although running
began as a competitive sport for Campbell, it became
part of his lifestyle. Campbell, believed that
physical activity was part of the process of self
actualization: the journey we all take as adults to
determine who we are, and our role in the world.
For each runner who toes the line at the PF
Chang's marathon in January, there is a story of
self-actualization: the journey of many steps, and
many miles that led him to the starting line. For
some, training was a way to get in shape or lose
weight, while other experienced marathoners trained
to improve their race times.
When I began running as a member of the high
school track team, my coach told me that "running
today is the first step toward running forever." He
was right. Although I no longer run competitively,
my daily run is a way to reduce stress. Away from
the office and my personal commitments, it is time
to spend alone with my thoughts, and enjoy the
beautiful scenery on the desert trails near my home.
Running provides me with focus and perspective:
it keeps my life in balance. Little things that
drive me crazy return to what they are: small events
in the big picture of life.
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To race or not to race.
For some runners, racing is an important part of
the sport. The race provides a point of focus after
months of buildup: crossing the finish line is a
reward well-earned after countless early morning
training runs, and weekend long runs on the canals.
The marathon is different than shorter races:
just reaching the finish line is an accomplishment.
For some, the final grueling miles are a
life-altering experience. Illness or an unexpected
injury prevents others from finishing the race at
As much as training for and running a marathon
has to offer, it's important to understand that the
rewards for those who line up at the start have
little to do with the race results. While some may
exceed their expectations with personal best finish
times, the fact that others do not in no way
diminishes their accomplishment.
Beyond the finish line
My guess is that each person toeing the line this
January will have at least one story about how
running has changed his life: be it an "aha" moment
on an early morning run, friendships within the
training group, or the feeling of well-being that
physical fitness brings.
Whether any of these runners ever races again is
irrelevant. What is important is that they keep
moving, realizing that running is a journey that
extends far beyond the finish line.
I would encourage each of the runners competing
in January, but especially those suiting up for the
first time, to take a good look in the mirror the
Monday morning after the event. Does the reflection
in the mirror look the same as it did before
training began? Chances are, this person looks
better, and despite the tired feet and sore muscles,
feels better too.
Running is a way to tame the monster inside each
of us: the fear that keeps us from looking further,
and reaching higher, by limiting our ability to
dream. Running a marathon teaches us how far a
positive state of mind can take us: to the finish
line of a race that by any reasonable standards, is
too long for the body to endure.
Running teaches us to appreciate movement for its
own sake, along with other simple pleasures that
make life worth living. It allows us our solitude,
and that solitude makes us love, and appreciate our
friends and family all the more.
Running is my morning cup of sanity. After all
the years and all the miles, my life wouldn't be the
same without it.
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