Day 22: On Running and Being a Runner, Pt. 3
At a certain point in my running life, maybe in my second year living in Texas, when I was running 5-7 days a week, I began to experience running as a demand. I was unhappy with myself if I didn’t get a run in. I’d make sure to run in the morning if I had an event in the evening or I’d go home and run between work and evening activities. If I didn’t, I felt guilty. Often, when I was visiting family or at a conference, I wouldn’t have the time or the wherewithal to run and then I’d feel like I was not really a runner. People would ask at these times how my running was going and I, knowing that I hadn’t run in three days, would feel like an imposter of a runner when I said, really well, thanks. Then I’d acknowledge sheepishly that I hadn’t run in three days. I don’t think I realized that people were giving me odd looks because that did not seem to them to have any bearing on whether I was really a runner or not.
At one point in 2011, I think it was, I ran a hundred days in a row or so. I can’t remember how many days it was, which I consider to be a sign of my mental health regarding running, because there was a time when I was pretty obsessive about knowing how many days in a row it had been on any given day.
It was really only the first winter that I was in Indiana that I took some real time, like month long time, off. It was cold and I hadn’t yet warmed up to the idea of winter running. I started doing yoga and taking a zomba class and eventually added tabata. But still, I felt guilty that I wasn’t running. Mainly, I felt guilty because I had a certain investment in being a runner. When I wasn’t running I felt like I had stopped being a runner. This gave me pause. Maybe it hearkens back to that guy at my sister’s soccer game who said I wasn’t an athlete (read about in Pt. 1). Maybe it’s that it’s really important to me that I’m more than my work, and being a philosopher can feel like working all the time. Maybe it’s that there is just something cool about being a runner. Sometimes people ask me how my jog was, and I’m like, puh-lease, I don’t jog, I run. Jogging is not cool. Running is cool. Runners are supposed to be so cool that they don’t care if you think running is cool, but I realized in this anxiety I had about running that I was caught up in the cool. So it turned out that taking time off was really good for me.
Around that time, I ran across the website, Fit is a Feminist Issue, which talks about feminist approaches to health and diet and exercise, most of which amount to: do what makes you feel good and stop being so hard on yourself. They talk about how working out can be addictive and unhealthy. Just a couple days ago, they had a post that linked strategies for developing writing habits that don’t depend on feeling guilty with strategies for working out well. So I took some time off that winter and I didn’t know how much I needed it. It was hard. I did yoga. When people asked how my running was going, I blamed not running on the snow. Fortunately, the polar vortex brought a lot of it. Then in March, when I hit the streets again, I was really excited to be running again. I ran the Broad Street Run in Philadelphia that Spring and had a blast.
I’ve blogged some this month about finding ways to stop treating relationships in terms of economies of debt. We can relate to ourselves from within this economy too, where we feel like we haven’t filled our responsibilities to ourselves. Why are we inventing all these responsibilities to ourselves? I don’t need to run everyday.
I did get back up to running five or six days a week. Through the winter, some weeks that happens and some weeks I’m on the treadmill running some and walking some and trying not to feel bad about it. I’ve been trying to think about the running being for me and not me for the running. I don’t want to run to say I ran. I want to want to run because I want to run. I’m not perfect at that. But I’m better. Like today, I didn’t run.