Monday, October 25, 2010

Reluctant running

I admit that I tend to wax exultant when I talk about running. I’ve expended a lot of ink over the past couple of decades writing about all the great things running has done for me. And I’ve expended a lot more ink over the past three years, both real and virtual, on the benefits of streak running, ever since I committed in August of 2007 to run every day without taking any days off. I’ve written about how it keeps me focused, it gives me the sense of stability that comes from a daily habit, it reassures me that there’s something in my life that I do exclusively for myself, and not to benefit anyone else. Mostly, I’ve written about how committing to daily running means never having to decide whether or not it’s a good day to go for a run. I don’t have to waste time coming up with reasons to go running or excuses not to anymore, because I go no matter what.

What I don’t admit quite so often is that occasionally, there are days when I really don’t want to go, days when I just don’t see how my going running is going to change anything in anyone’s life, even my own. I know from a fitness perspective it wouldn’t really matter if I took a day off now and then. And I know the idea that I’m committed to a daily run isn’t particularly significant in anyone’s mind except my own.

Mostly, it’s a daily habit that I relish and a part of the day I look forward to eagerly. But there are some days when it’s not like that. Yesterday was one of them.

I just didn’t feel like going. For reasons unrelated to running, I was feeling both irritable and overscheduled. A household problem was causing me a great deal of frustration, and although usually running improves my state of mind, this problem was intractable enough that I was certain running couldn’t possibly make me feel any differently where that was concerned. I also felt like I had so much to fit in: church in the morning, then a bunch of errands and a flu shot; then I had promised I’d get to Tim’s baseball game for a few innings; and I wanted to drop in to see my high school friend Courtney, who was in town from North Carolina visiting her local family members. I wanted to spend a little bit of time with my parents, and I wanted to get a head start on the week’s writing assignments, and I wanted to make a well-planned-out and nutritious dinner for my family.

I did not want to fit in a run.

But the streak registry keeps me honest. Having paid my yearly dues is incentive enough not to fall off the wagon; I’m listed on the registry, and it would be so disheartening to have to take the necessary bureaucratic steps to inform the powers that be if I no longer deserved my place on it. The membership fee for the year paid, I might as well get my money’s worth.

Yes, there are some days that running doesn’t feel quite so magnificent as it does most days. Yesterday I countered the fact that I didn’t feel like going at all with a promise to myself to stay close to home; I decided to run up to the soccer fields across the street (it’s seven-tenths of a mile each way) and then do however many laps it would take me to total three miles altogether. I thought it would feel comforting to stay close to home.

And it did, but it also felt boring, because running laps is boring and because I wasn’t in the mood for a run. I felt tired and creaky, and as I ran, my frustration over the household problem that had been bothering me was not lessening one bit.

So yesterday wasn’t typical. I didn’t want to go running and I didn’t enjoy it once I went. But I console myself with the fact that I’d feel worse if I hadn’t gone.

Maybe running didn’t have its usual magic powers over me, leaving me feeling transcendent and powerful and serene, but it didn’t make me feel any worse. And I’d met my daily running commitment.

So yes, there are some days when running is not particularly a joy. But just going is easier than making a choice not to go. So the streak continues, and I know the odds are I’ll have a better run today.

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