You may remember my “Running is…” post from a week ago. I’m writing this, and other “Running is…” posts as a further look into running and why I, and maybe others, run. “Running is happiness” is the first.
Flat out, running makes me happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a short run, long run, intervals, TT or a race. It doesn’t matter if I start out in a negative mood or if I start out feeling down. Maybe I feel like crap physically or I feel great. Once I’m a half-mile or so in, suddenly I’m happy. Sometimes that happiness can help spur me on and lead me to a great run whether it’s a great run physically, mentally, or both!
That happiness extends into the run as well. My first dip into an ultra run, you may remember the Labor Pains 12 Hour Endurance Trail Run post from September, was not even supposed to be my first ultra. I had planned on running about 25 miles. It was supposed to be only a training run…but what training run it was! I’m not sure what it was about that day- the atmosphere, my training going really well, or the fact that I was running on behalf of someone else- but I was in such an amazingly positive frame of mind the entire day. I felt like I was smiling the entire time. My mind was cheering me on every step of the way! Even on my last 5 mile lap, my brain kept saying “Come on, you can do it!” or “Alright, we can get another lap after this one!” and “This is AWESOME!” My brain did eventually say “Alright, your body really is done- BUT YOU DID AWESOME!” I did not feel down at all when I decided I could not run another lap (but I had also run 35 miles- 13 more than I ever had before). Sometimes I do feel down if a split was not as fast as I wanted or if I started feeling as if I didn’t have it, but the “being down” part does not last long at all. Part of it may be thinking about the fact that I think about how good I feel about myself, and how much of a better place I am in now than I was just a few years ago when I was 60 pounds heavier and got winded going up a flight of stairs.
After my runs, my happiness continues into the rest of the day and into the next (especially since I run at night a lot). My wife even says she can tell how much happier after I get back from a run. When I wake up in the morning (and with the help of some coffee), I am prepared for the rush of the day. Knowing that I ran the night before or will be running later that night helps to keep me happy; it keeps me sane. Thinking about getting out for a long run on the trails can put a smile on my face for a few days leading in to it.
I have noticed a difference in my overall demeanor since I started running after a recent injury hiatus. I am always a helpful person, but feel more eager to help others when I am running. Let’s use this morning as an example. We have an attic that we would love to finish into an extra bedroom/extension of our bedroom (the attic stairs are in our bedroom)/office/running sanctuary- basically a multi-purpose grown-up room. It already has a ton of outlets, a phone jack and is ready for cable as well. The floors are insulated and it is partially walled off on the sides. It needs a lot of other work, too. Part of that work was cleaning up the crap we shoved up there when we moved in almost 2 years ago (that’s another great story). Well this morning, despite knowing that I’d have to snow blow and shovel for a couple hours, and knowing that I wanted to run a couple miles outside, do a quick load of running stuff, clean the kitchen, and do some PT and core work, I spent four hours starting the cleaning process. And I was happy to do it! If this was 4 years and 60 pounds ago? NEVER WOULD THAT HAVE HAPPENED! We have running to thank for that. This action influenced my wife to work on better organizing her office, which made her happy. And this happiness extended to our kids as well who have been playing out in the snow and inside together all day with not even an argument!
If I had a bad run or got injured, I can still keep a positive frame of mind. During the two+ months I was out because of the partially torn abductor, I was able to keep a positive outlook. I know I’m into running for life, not for this week, this month or this year, but for the rest of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to run, but I also wanted to take my time and not aggravate the injury or do anything to make it worse. Part of it was thinking about this summer and pacing a good friend at Leadville and part of it was also thinking about being healthy for my first 50 miler. I didn’t get down when races came and went. I wanted to really rock a 10 miler in November, but I was more than happy to stand out at mile 4 (or was it 6) and yell out splits to the runners from the first to the last. I was happy to help fill up the water and Gatorade buckets. I was happy to haul more buckets to the tables for the runners at the finish. A few weeks later I was out again with my kids cheering on mommy and her best friend at a 5k that I was hoping to do well in. There are others, too, that I will not be doing or will not be running them as fast or as strong as I would have liked to, but they are just races. I am competitive in my age group at shorter distance, but I don’t mind the fact that I am missing them. My time will come; I will be back to 100%. And, I am happy about that.