The best thing in life is free and of all there is that's free nothing can beat the freedom of running on the open road. Running is my salvation. During my teens living in a boarding school, the weekly cross country training gave me a glimpse of freedom outside the ever imposing fences of the all boys school. For a free spirited person like me, life in a boarding school is like living in a penitentiary. That is however a walk in the garden compared to living at home with a stern father. So stuck between a rock and a hard place I turned to running as a form of solace.
I was never a fast runner. I don't intend to go fast either. When I run, I like to cruise. I call this active meditation. By having a steady rhythmic breathing of 3:1 ratio of inhaling and exhaling I feel calm and at one with myself and my surrounding. The feeling is like listening to Pachelbel's Canon in D, smooth and uplifting. Click here for Pachelbel's Canon D.
After school I stopped running for a while but I picked it up again in my junior year in college. That was my peak. I was able to run 10 km in 45 minutes. Though I entered a few races, I didn't quite enjoy them as much as I enjoy my nightly run across the North Texas country side. There is something primordial about running in the dark or accompanied only by the moonlight on the lonely country road. Looking back, I am grateful I was a runner. Full of energy and at the peak of my youth, I ran whenever possible. In the midday of summer, I ran until my nose bled. I even ran on the day we have 8 inches of snow; a major event in the seldom to snow small university town north of Dallas, Texas.
Not many people can comprehend the lure of running, especially the non-runners. The action of body in motion triggers the production of myriads of neurotransmitters. The act of running is akin to getting high. We heard of the term Runner's High. Basically the phenomenon is caused by the body reaction to prolonged pain. To overcome the pain the body produces its own morphine which is endorphin. Literally a combination of two words - inside and morphine. There are hundreds of these kind of neurotransmitters that scientists have yet to discover. Among the recent discoveries are endocannabinoid, adrenaline and epinephrine. All are feel good juices.
That is why when we first started running, there was a bit of discomfort. As the body adapts to the stress and pain, the experience becomes less a drudgery and eventually becomes a joy. My most joyous experience was running the marathon. I only ran the 42 km run once for the very simple reason, marathon takes a major commitment in training. Even that doesn't guarantee a finishing. Unlike other less demanding races, nobody can be sure if they can finish a marathon. My attitude towards the marathon is, at least everyone should run it once in their lives. Not many can climb the highest mountain, however at the very least we should make an attempt to run a marathon.
Nowadays, I am much slower but I still pushing the limit of my running potential. It's easy to slip into mediocrity in running. All it takes is to not run for two weeks. The opposite is also true. As long as I run at least three times a week, I should be able to maintain my pace. Races are such a novelty nowadays considering the exorbitant fee in joining. Many times I contemplate in joining in as a bandit. What the heck, do away with the T-shirt, medal, certificate and refreshment. Just use the road. I however settle for a compromise. Just run one or two major races and spend more time training.
The race I enjoy the most now is the 21 km or half marathon. Not too short, not too long. Not to fast either for an aging runner like me. Somehow a half marathon feels just right. It's like sipping ice lemon tea in a lazy Sunday afternoon.
It is my deepest desire to run into my old age. I fancy the life of George Sheehan, the runner who writes or maybe more appropriately the writer who runs. He seems to draw his inspirations through his runs. And yet when asked, "Is running a religion?" He humbly replied, "Running is a place." Yes, to Dr Sheehan running is like a monastery of which he visits to introspect his very life.
As for me, running is my love affair with the outdoors. Without my runs, I will lose touch with the sun, the breeze, the ground and the greeneries that constitute my existence.