During my run this afternoon, I was reminded of the mindfulness that I experience when I run. As I was approaching the descent down Allegheny Avenue towards Heinz Field, and the subsequent path along the Allegheny River, I hear some girl over my headphones asking why in the world I was running in this? (I’m assuming the “this” was the 30-degree temperatures and flurry conditions, but maybe that’s my own narrative). Two months ago I wouldn’t have considered myself a runner. Truth: I HATED running. But the meaning of running now, and why I run, holds a lot of weight. It’s quite heavy.
I run in “this” because my self-esteem is at an all-time low. I’ve been going in and out of bouts of depression for over a year, since the death of both of my grandparents and my diagnosis of skin cancer. Every time I feel like I’ve recovered, it’s there like a frying pan to the face. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere — that I have no value to anyone. It’s an identity crisis that is wrapped in in-authenticity, as I have no idea who I am anymore.
But at least I’m a runner.
My thoughts overwhelmed me as I run across the pedestrian/multi-use bridge over the river and approached the dead-for-winter fountain. And the tears started. I know a hundred things that are making me unhappy, but I’m not really sure what is going to make me happy again. The tears froze against my face, but I ran through them, looking for guidance or inspiration in my meditation of each and every step… which never came. Because life is more complicated than that. I feel incredible while I’m running — like I can accomplish and overcome anything, as my arches ache and my lungs hurt from the cold, and my stupid nipples chafe. But the things that are making me unhappy are still there when the run needs to eventually end. I want to be able to translate this power to my real world.
So, that’s why I run: to be alone in my thoughts, to see if I can clear my head and find the answers I need… to find myself. And I know that those questions and answers will change from mile to mile, or short run to long run, or even on race day. I run angry, I run happily to soak in the sunshine, apparently now I also cry-run. I run for me.
It’s my therapy.