Running to Stop Running

Trent Reznor wrote the song Hurt that opens with the lyrics: “I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel.” (Johnny Cash recorded an excellent version of that song.)

It has occurred to me that I do not hurt myself to feel, rather I hurt myself because I cannot stop feeling.

One of the reasons I like running is that it hurts. After a couple of miles at a brisk pace my body sends me a message along these lines: that was fun, now let’s stop. At that point running ceases to be comfortable. It takes focus to continue on, hold a steady rhythm, and use measured breathing. Depending on the environment and trail conditions the discomfort level rises or falls.

I realize that I like this for three reasons:
1). Focusing on running blocks out things I could not get off my mind if I were sitting on my couch. Running clears the mind.
2). It takes discipline to keep moving.
3). Much of the hurt we feel in life we cannot control. Running allows me to control the pain and choose when it ends. (And if you’ve never run to the edge of the breaking point in the hot sun, then collapsed in the shade of a tree and laid on your back savoring being still, well . . . you might be missing something.)

That’s what I did this afternoon. I decided to run a loop on a section of the bike trail with an ascent and descent, which take a toll. It looked something like this:

I think I pushed myself a bit farther than I have in my recent running. My route ended about one mile from my apartment. After lying under a tree and feeling euphoric for a few moments I walked home. During the walk my legs kept threatening to shut down. I think it was the combination of the heat, hills, and dehydration. I’m very curious to see if I am still incredibly sore tomorrow.

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