“I’ll be happy if running and I can grow old together.”
That quote sums it up for me. There are few things I want to grow old with, those rare things I have given my heart to. What a shame it would be where I was forced to live a life in which I could not run.
As a kid, I grew up loving the outdoors. My parents always encouraged an active lifestyle. We even took annual holidays to places where there was a good mix of both outdoorsy things, like a hike or a climb or a lot of urban walking; plus things that pampered us — comfortable hotels, good food, swimming pools, and beautiful sightseeing places. Relaxing vacations never meant the absence of physical activity.
My parents taught me that the human body was the best tool I could ever have and that I should treat it with respect, intelligence, care, and love. They taught me that one of the best joys comes from loving Nature. Everything else is a preparation of sorts for you to become into that person who is capable of savoring it.
Why this is important is because the balanced outlook during my formative years is what nourished the love inside me for the life outdoors, no matter how busy I got.
Fast forward to 2015. I started to run, thanks to my colleague. One day, he mentioned over a lunch conversation that he ran 10 miles on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. When I casually mentioned to him I had never really run much, he was intrigued that I stayed a mile away from the trailhead and never felt like running on it.
That’s it. His intrigue was my motivation. I decided to run. It was almost as if the seed inside me waited all these years to finally sprout.
That weekend was a beautiful spring day. Everything outside welcomed me for my first run — the flower blooms, the scattered clouds in the sky, the lively runners in my neighborhood, and the excellent weather. Running is one of those few activities which does not require much gear. Comfortable shoes, good pants or shorts, a sweat-wicking top, maybe a cap and you are all set. I was out before I knew it.
I still remember that day. One mile into the run, I was panting for breath and my legs had begun to ache. I had set an easy target of two miles for the first day and I knew I could crush it even if I turned back home right then. But I wanted to run more, put one leg in front of the other, and let my body go. Something inside me begged to keep going. And I did. My mind raced, my legs ached, and I was alive like never before. This opened new doors to new possibilities in my mind.
I got back to a new version of myself when I returned home from my first run.
Exhausted. The gratification from the run consoled the pain in legs.
I knew I was in love with running. Exhilarated.
After that day, there has been no looking back. Running is my therapy. I have run in the lowest of my lows and highest of highs. What’s more — those days which were perfect nominees for uneventful normal routine days now got labeled as distinctive, thanks to my running memories. I grew more conscious of my days.
Somehow, after a good and long run, everything felt okay.
Running is not just a fitness activity. That, of course, it is! But it’s also a way to connect to something primordial inside you. Running helps you take your mind off things. When you run, you are in the moment, thinking about conserving energy, breathing right, planning to make it to your goal. Back to the basics.
You are grateful for the beauty around you. You relish small things like the feel of the wind on your face, the sweat down your spine, and smile on your lips. The sweet ache in your calf and quad muscles remind you of your achievement. And like they say, it’s all about the last mile. That’s what leaves you elated.
Running, especially long-distance running, requires physical resilience, sure. But, it taps more rigorously into your mindset. I had never run in my life, not even 50 feet. It was my mind that presented the power to my legs to complete 3 miles on my very first run.
Over the years, I have run hundreds of miles. A few of my runs have led to some intriguing thought processes. A few of those I will share here.
Step after step is how you will have run for miles.
Pay attention to this step, this moment, and how you feel about it. I repeat. Do not miss the importance of this moment.
Time will pass. 0 to finish line will happen. You will live.
Enjoy the skies, the flowers, the mountains, the water, the chirping of the bird, the lake that met you on the way. Post-run, what will remain with you is not just the mileage but how you felt during the journey.
What motivated you when your legs wanted to give up?
Food. Money. Relationships. Success. Fame. What was that drive to push yourself?
How did you treat your body after the run?
Stretch those leg muscles (calf, quad, iliotibial band, glutes) generously. Be grateful for your body.
How have your eating habits changed after you started running?
Eat mindfully and responsibly.
Most importantly, did you pay attention to the magic it is, the human body?
It’s a blessing to have such an efficient tool. The more you use your muscles the right way, the better they get.
If there is one thing I go back to, time and again, in the very process of running, it’s that cohesiveness I feel inside me — that state where everything that I identify as myself truly functions in absolute synchronization. As one. And in this unity, for that brief duration, I can experience the eternal perfection in the universe.
There was something very promising in that fleeting moment as the fore-foot bent, lifted off, and swung back to become the rear-foot.
Repetition. Change. Work. Progress.
“All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”
If you are someone who has never run, pick a pair of good running boots, wear something comfortable, and hit the trail. Feel the joy of how it feels so different than walking. Give yourself a little taste of liberation.
If you have been running for a while, go find newer and harder trails to run on. The world is beautiful and many trails await you. Challenge yourself.
If you a pro-runner, running for years now, I will say this — take care of those knees and feet bones. After all, it’s a long term love affair, and you want to keep growing old with the joy of running!
And as we run, our feet flying in the air one by one, may we find that stillness of the spirit that we can dissolve into, even if for just a few seconds.