Monday, November 23, 2009

Giving thanks for...running!

Continuing my Thanksgiving countdown with gratitude for the less-than-massive things that enhance my life, I suppose it’s no surprise that eventually I would get to the topic of running.

Being grateful for good health and physical (as well as mental) well-being falls into the category of massive things to be grateful for, but the simple act of running takes a more granular view. I’m grateful that my physiological profile includes the strength, mobility and stamina to run, but I’m also just grateful that running exists. As I’ve been reminded hundreds of times throughout my adult life, running isn’t for everyone. There are some people, even physically able people, who are injury-prone and clearly just not destined to be runners; there are others who could do it but just dislike it. Running tends to be something you either love or hate. I’m really grateful to fall into the former category. I love running and have ever since I was eighteen years old and took up running during my first summer vacation from college.

I’ve run regularly everywhere I’ve ever lived, though that isn’t that many places: the Fenway and Kenmore neighborhoods in Boston surround my college campus when I first started, Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood where I lived just after college, the areas around our first apartment in Framingham and then our first home on the other side of the same town, and now the various running routes I’ve established from our Carlisle home.

I haven’t lived many places, but I’ve traveled a lot, and run everywhere I’ve visited. Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Wyoming (one of the most memorable runs I’ve taken was outside of Cody, Wyoming. I picked out a single tree on the horizon and started running down the horizon toward it. Twenty-five minutes, which is to say about 2.5 miles, later I reached that tree, turned around and ran back. It’s the only place I’ve ever run where I could see my halfway point from my starting line.). Also England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Venezuela, Aruba, Bermuda (which from a traffic perspective was the most dangerous place I’ve run. From the perspective of sheer bad judgment, I’d vote for Venezuela. Suffice to say endorphins can be a dangerous drug. But on the subject of judgment, the one place I didn’t run was in Kenya, because the safari guides bluntly forbid it). I ran on the open-air track on the top deck of a cruise ship plying the waters of the eastern Caribbean. I’ve run with my sisters, my brothers-in-law, a cousin, my nieces, friends and co-workers, but mostly over the years I’ve run alone, other than the two years during which my son Tim and I ran together nearly every day. I’ve had two different dogs as regular running partners over the years. I’ve listened to good music, bad music, restaurant review shows, football games and tens of thousands of hours of NPR while running.

So when people look at my running record and call me committed, I say no, just lucky. During the two-year daily running streak that my son Tim and I did together, I was always a little sheepish when people said they were impressed; to me it was astoundingly good fortune that neither of us was sick, injured or otherwise unable to run during those 732 days. Now that I’m continuing with the daily running streak alone – and on day 835 as of this afternoon – I continue to feel remarkably lucky. An H1N1 fever or broken bone could be all it would take to compel me to take a day off, and so far that hasn’t happened.

So mostly, during this week of Thanksgiving, I feel grateful for good health in big ways: the absence of serious illness or disability. But I also feel thankful for the sheer joy that daily running brings me, and has for seemingly as long now as I can remember. It could end any time (as could everything I’m thankful for). But I’m so glad for it right now, on this day, with the hope that I’ll be out running again tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, 835 days! Amazing.

    You are right -- most of us are extremely lucky to be healthy and able . A lot of times we focus on the want to/need to/don't want to issues, instead of being grateful for the simple fact that we can.

    I've only run on a few vacations (I remember Israel in particular) and it was an eye-opening way to get to know another country, culture, landscape. Such a different perspective you get -- often early in the morning, seeing life from a quotidian perspective, as well as noting the beauty of the geography and people in a different way than you do with guidebook in hand.