Traffic sucks. The freeway has been transformed into a parking lot. I’m supposed to be at a conference at the other end of the valley in 20 minutes. I’m going to be late. My phone rings. It’s my 13 year old calling from school. Two seconds after it stops ringing, he calls again. I don’t answer. He calls again. And again. We still have not moved forward on the roadway. I sigh. I wonder if it would be faster to run to my office, today? I could just pull my car to the side of the road and run. The phone rings again. I stare at it. It would probably alleviate the slowly rising frustration. I know what he wants, he wants me to pick him up and let him stay home. It happens every spring. His anxiety goes through the roof. His ability to regulate his emotions plummets. The phone rings again. “I’m too sick to go to school,” he said this morning. “I just can’t be there today mom. Please? Don’t you care if I’m sick?,” he asked. This has been his mantra for three days. Yeah, a run would be great right now.
I give in and answer the phone, “Hi bud, what’s going on?”
“Mom, you need to pick me up. I don’t feel well and I am getting really frustrated and annoyed.”
“I am sorry to hear that sweets, but I can’t pick you up. I’m stuck in traffic and am going to be late for work already.”
“I’m not asking you, mom. I’m telling you.” I take a deep breath.
“I love you son. I’ll see you tonight.” I hang up the phone. It rings. I turn the phone off.
Why do I run? It’s usually the first question I get from non-runners. I think runners know the answer, “It’s complicated.” It shouldn’t be that difficult to answer, but it’s so multifaceted and all consuming that it becomes nearly impossible to make someone who does not run really understand. But, I’ve never been one to turn away from something that is difficult.
FREEDOM. Running provides me with a doorway into the world. I can go anywhere I desire and experience the world in a beautifully simple way. I can turn left or right, it doesn’t matter. I can splash through the stream and brush the leaves with my fingertips. I feel more connected with the world around me. My thoughts come and go and I can just watch.
RELAXATION. That’s right. I said, I relax when I run. I let everything go, or I work through anything that has been bothering me. My feel my feet roll from midfoot to toe and push off. My knee drives forward and my arms brush against my sides. My breathing comes evenly, in for three steps, out for two. And then contact with the other foot. The air on my face is cool and crisp in the early morning hours.
SELF EXPRESSION. Strength, courage, and an unconquerable spirit. My limit is myself. I am my own competition. Before me stands a mountain, a wall, a river, and it is me who decides how to get over it or around it. But I will never just go home.
As runners, we don’t shy away from challenges. We look them in the face, smile, and say, “Bring it on,” pushing forward with every ounce of energy we have left. Giving up is not in our nature. We may be tired, unmotivated or have an ache in our hip, but we get out there each day becoming stronger and faster. Rain, sun, or snow we face them all with our pounding feet and pumping arms. Determined, ambitious, goal oriented, strong, brave, adventurous, and forgiving– these characteristics make us excellent runners and are the same characteristics we need to be loving parents.
I turn my phone back on. Five missed calls. One message. “I love you mom.” He had a great day at school despite calling me 30 times panicked throughout the day.