When you see me lacing into my Nikes, iPod discarded next to me on the porch, you squint and give me that oh another overachiever look: ‘Why do you run?’ It should be an easy question to answer, but it’s not. I started for the typical reasons. I didn’t want to get fat. Social approval. X does it, and I think X is pretty cool, so I’ll do it too.
But why you start running isn’t why you keep running, although the two trip into one another. Last week you could only run 4 minutes without feeling your lungs give out. This week you can run 10 uninterrupted. And then you run your first 10k, and then you can’t stop, because if you went from 10 minutes to 10 kilometres in a couple of months, how far could you go if you push further?
(Same thing we do every night, Pinky – try to take over the world!)
That’s not the reason I run, though. Running wins you over on the day that it pushes you down and kicks you. Everything hurts that day – you’re tired just a few minutes into the run, you’re grumpy, your head throbs, that blister has been rubbed raw against your insoles. Your lungs have deflated in your chest and your muscles protest every stretch. Fuck this, you think. Fuck this sun, fuck how out of shape I am. And yeah, you too, you slow-walking sidewalk hog, get out of my way.
For some reason, though, you push against defeat, wiping sweat from your brow. You convince the useless bits of meat you call legs to keep moving, you will air into your lungs. Just one more kilometer, you reason, knowing you can’t go home this early; you only just laced your shoes up.
But then something happens inside your brain (I think this is what happens inside a horse when it is finally broken). All those strings unravel. Your existence spreads, weightless. You become the beat in your earphones, floating along the trees you run throughout. Your thoughts disintegrate. You have no worries of job applications or red light fines or the would’ves or the what ifs. There’s no place for stress or anger or ego or planning. There’s just an overwhelming settling. Even if nothing is in place, you spend a fraction of your day completely at peace with the world, floating above it, immersed in it.
It’s hard to explain that to someone, though. So you settle for ‘I like it,’ and they settle for disbelief, and you’re free to go off on your run.