Tramps Like Us – On Being Born to Run

I’ve been thinking a lot about running.

Running has been a consistent trope in the narrative of my life, and it is one that vacillates between a plague and a passion.

In a strictly athletic sense, running was something that came naturally to me, and was one of the few things I could truly feel I excelled at. I ran short sprints and long distances, I ran relays and cross country marathons.

Rock Hill, SC 2017

I ran even when it became obvious that my small legs stood very little chance against my rapidly growing competition. Running made me feel free, it set my heart on fire –as a matter of fact, it still does.

I hadn’t run in 13 years because in the 8th grade some sort of undiagnosed knee issue cut my career short. My knees gave way and no one really knew why – so I stopped running. A few weeks ago, I ran 3.2km as part of the workout of the day and the embers of that long ago flame reignited. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and breathing my way through 800 metre bursts centred me in a way I hadn’t felt in a very long time. It was almost as if I had never stopped – that passion had curled up like a cat inside my chest, waiting for me to remember the feeling.

Of course, I never really stopped running at all because I’ve been plagued with an overactive ‘flight’ instinct all my life. I was that weirdo kid in grade school who fled the premises at the first indication that a supply teacher was in – I was deathly afraid of the unfamiliar and rather than confront the fear, I ran. I ran away from home on a regular basis, though of course I never really got very far – my mother had instilled in me a crippling fear of the dangers of the world. Also I could never really decide which Beanie Babies to take and there wasn’t room for all of them in the little rolling suitcase etc etc etc.

Running became a familiar and comforting pattern for me in the midst of the turmoil of growing up- in the shuffle of a nasty divorce, I adapted to constant movement. I stopped believing in permanence, living in rooms without paint on the walls and sleeping on air mattress beds without question. After a few years in a place I begin climbing the walls, itching for somewhere else. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy because even when I think I’ve finally found a reason to stop running I end up torpedoing that ship before it even sets sail.

I’ve been thinking a lot about running because my life has continued to follow this pattern and as I continue to narrow my personal possessions, running away becomes that much easier. There are nights when I’m driving down the highway and I think about missing my exit. I think about walking away from all of it and just driving until my heart can rest. But I don’t. I channel my restless energy into making a mess of my personal life or biting all my nails off. I can feel myself pushing too hard with people, coming on too strong in an effort to find something to ground me, to keep me here.

TL;DR: To Run, or not to Run?

But I’m wondering: Is there a quiet kind of courage that comes from resisting the urge to run? Is there bravery in the acknowledgement of how frightened you are by commitment and committing anyway?