Sunday, August 13, 2006

Runner's High

Running plays a major role in my life, and increasingly so over the past year. I began running as a way to get in shape and I ran mainly on a treadmill. Ever since I began racing, running has become much more to me than a form of exercise.

My general interest in exercise began shortly after I graduated college as a way to set measurable, attainable goals and meet them. Running does this for me, but there are many other elements that go into it. 

Letting off steam/anxiety: Running is a great way to clear my head by focusing less on my racing thoughts and more on my body. It provides a physical release and I am much more relaxed and de-stressed after a run. Yesterday, I felt anxious for most of the day. I was just sitting at home while the painters worked on my foyer and bathroom and I was extremely antsy. By the time they left and I was ready to go workout, I felt as if I didn't know what to do with myself. It was like I had to run. 

Runner's High: Runner's high is very noticeable to me after about 5 or 6 miles. When I am at mile 3, I don't see how I am ever going to complete all the miles that I set out to run. But once that "high" sets in, I feel like I am just coasting along on autopilot. It's an empowering feeling and "high" is probably the best term for it. I feel like nothing else in the world matters, and that I am strong enough to handle anything.

Setting and attaining goals: I am a very driven, goal-oriented person so I thrive on setting goals and meeting them. As soon as one is accomplished, I am on to the next. It provides me with a "high" that makes me feel like I am living up to my full potential.

Feeling the music: Running helps me feel the music. If it weren't for my iPod or some other way of listening to music, I don't think I would enjoy running nearly as much, if at all. I used to be a dancer and my favorite thing about dance was how I "Felt" the music. I don't feel it as much with running because the movement is constant and not varied or expressive as it is with dance. But when the endorphins kick in and I am listening to a song I love, I feel a sense of being "in" the music. It's hard to top that sensation.

Weight control: I admit that one of the things I like about running is that it prevents me from gaining an excess of weight. I know that I am going to burn a significant amount of calories each day, so I feel freer to eat. On the other hand, I enjoy running so much, that I know I will give myself enough food and nourishment to fuel my runs.

It sometimes seems as if there is no problem that can't be made easier (at least for awhile) by running. While I am happy that I have found something I am so passionate about, at the same time, I am worried that I am too reliant on it for a sense of well-being. What if I got injured? What if I couldn't run anymore? When I had the flu for the first two weeks of this year, I couldn't run and I was an emotional and physical wreck. I would be devastated. I'm often worried about tripping and spraining an ankle, or hurting my back.

When the painters were here, I was worried that inhaling the paint fumes would affect my performance. It would only take one second-- one small thing to injure me so that I couldn't run. And then what would I do? Would I still be motivated to eat healthy? Would I be anxious and/or depressed? What would I do when I automatically wake up at 4:30am (naturally, without an alarm)?

I know I'm not a professional runner and that there is much more to my life than this. But it's something I do almost everyday and I think about it a great deal. I'm always thinking about my next run, my next race, my goal pace and time, what running gear I need to buy, etc. It's fun, but it's on the verge of obsessive.

However, I have heard that many runners have this mentality. So maybe I'm not that crazy after all! In order to commit yourself to training for a marathon or just running everyday, you need to incorporate it into your lifestyle and your thought processes. 

Maybe because with running, it's just me, and no one else. With my career, my romantic relationships, and almost everything else, there are always other people. And I find it hard to stay fully connected to myself. As I learn more about myself and become stronger in my self-awareness, maybe this won't be the case. But for now, I need something to hold onto that doesn't involve or depend on other people. Not to say I don't like other people and that I am an introvert-- in fact I consider myself very much of an extrovert. But running is something that is mine and mine alone.

That said, I polished off 12 miles on the W&OD trail this morning. The weather was beautiful and my run was strong. I only stopped to walk for about 30 seconds, so I feel very prepared for the half marathon in three weeks. I had put 15 new songs into my iPod Shuffle (which holds 250 songs) and I must have scrolled through every song on there before I even got to one of the new songs! I finished to Home by Live, a song off of their latest CD. The CD isn't all that great, but that song is amazing and I sprinted the last half mile to it.