A Sunday morning in late February, my daughter and I stood in the kitchen, bare feet on the cold floor and numb from shock. We had just heard my wife, her mother, on the other end of the phone tells us that she is never coming home. The words had passed through me without notice but their wake slammed into me when I looked towards my daughter and she started screaming.
The break up of my marriage and it’s immediate aftermath was as close to drowning as I have ever felt. I was not sure at any moment that I would just lay down and refuse to get up, even today six months later there are moments where I feel impossibly weak and tired and hopeless.
I am still standing because I run.
Now, most assuredly, its great for my physical health: I have more energy, my weight is staying down, I eat better. There are plenty of pros to being physically active but that is not really what is saving me.
What running has imparted is…
Each of those four elements helped me face that morning and remaining standing. Those elements helped keep me moving through the minutes, hours, and days seeking stability for my daughter and I.
Running did this mostly by teaching me how to set seemingly impossible goals and strike them. In a year, I progressed from a 10k to a marathon from a starting point of never having really ran. I needed to be determined. I needed to keep moving at my goal, even when I was tired, hurt, and discouraged.
Running is teaching me how to survive, making it through difficult times requires perseverance and discipline. I have learned that I need to stay focused on where I want to head, be rigid enough to not find myself bending under the strain yet only so much that I am not brittle and likely to shatter. Running has taught me to trust in the principle of equifinality: I will get to that end state even if it feels like I am meandering.
Running is keeping me sane. To be. Just simply to be in a given moment that only lasts for a single inhalation, exhalation, or footfall. Reducing my world down to no past and not future for an hour or more realigns my perspective like not other activity I have experienced.
If not for running I am truly uncertain of how I, and my daughter, would have emerged from that February morning. Certainly, friends and family would have carried us, even dragged us, in the hopes that we would start over but what would our lives be like? Would we have hope? Would we seek joy? Maybe but I am certain that the struggle would be much more difficult and perilous.
Running is saving us.