I used to hate running. A lot.
I've always been active. I've tried all manner of sports. I was a ballet dancer for eleven years. I've taken karate and fencing. I love to ski and I'm a pretty good swimmer. I'm a terrible soccer player, but I've done that, too, and played Ultimate Frisbee on a team. I've done backpacking and boxing and rock climbing, spelunking and rollerblading and tennis and horseback riding.
Actually, I'm terribly uncoordinated. The more equipment that's involved, the more likely I will foul it up. This is not false modestly. Ask anyone in my family. I'm legendarily clumsy. Tennis was a disaster. And I have the distinction of being the only member of my high school swim team to have sustained a bleeding injury during a meet. I ran into a starting block. No, I'm not kidding.
I didn't discover running until after graduate school. I tried it in college but never really caught the bug. But after I graduated from Yale and moved to a new city with a new husband and new house and no job, I started running because there was nothing else to do with myself. I couldn't afford a gym, I didn't know anyone and didn't have any other access to any kind of equipment. I ran to learn my new neighborhood and to work out my frustrations at the lonely situation I was in. And it worked.
I kept running even after things worked out. We moved to a better city (my hometown) and a better house. There was still no money for a gym and by that point, it didn't really matter. Who needed a gym? I had shoes!
I have been running ever since. I've taken breaks for pregnancies and new babies but keep coming back. There are so many reasons I run now, and none of them are finances or desperation. #1 on the list is that running keeps the crazy from taking over. When I run, I work out my anger and my extra energy. Over those miles, I focus my head and think about what I've got coming up in the days,weeks and months ahead. I pound out the answers to daily irritations and celebrate minor victories.
I pray. And I pray and pray and pray. My best prayers are when I am running because they are raw and unedited. I don't have enough extra space in my running brain to be polite and gentle with God and so my running prayers are exactly what I need to say. When I am running, I remember to trust that God is big enough to handle what I need to unload. And so far, God has proven trustworthy on this point.
Finally, I run because running is one of the few things in my life that is all mine. I can share it if I want to, but I don't have to. If I run an extra three miles that day, I did it by myself. If I fail to wake up and get my backside in gear, I'm the only one to blame. I live an incredible life filled with incredible people. I consider it a great honor to share myself with them. But I also know that I need something that is just for me. Running is a room of my own (to blatantly steal from Virginia Woolf). I don't have to please anyone but myself. I don't have to accomplish anyone else's goals or make anyone else happy or satisfied. There's no one else to disappoint or shortchange. Running is just for me. I need that little pocket of selfish in my life in order that there is enough of me--healthy-- to distribute according to the needs of others.
That's my brand of crazy. That's why I run.
What about you? What is your selfish thing?