In high school, I was a great runner. In college, I was an okay runner. Now I am the best runner I’ve ever been. And that’s because I run for me. I no longer run to collect medals that come neatly packaged in their plastic cases, sitting on beds of blue foam as if they were actually precious metal instead of just precious. I no longer run to add more vibrant, satin ribbons to the memory box in my childhood bedroom. I no longer run for plaques of recognition from my county or my state. I no longer run to achieve the green and white leather letter jacket now hanging stiff on a wire clothes hanger in my parents’ home. I no longer run to be a part of something, to find a place amongst my peers. I no longer run for my coaches or my family. I no longer run to beat the clock.
I run when I need to. When my head needs clearing. When my body is sluggish. When the hum of passing cars and people, and the whistling of tree branches and my feet against the ground beneath me bleed together to become the only song I need to hear. I run when I need to. And I run faster and longer the more my life needs slowing down. I run when the best place to catch the tall, white peak of a mountain can be seen from a path you can only get to by foot. I run to feel stronger. I run when I’m happy. I run when I’m mad, when I’m confused. I run when I need someone to talk to, but I’m not quite ready for a conversation. I run when my face craves the heat of the sun. I run when I need to breathe, deeply, the air stretching to reach every bit of my lungs. I run when I worry about my future, when I dream about my future. I run for me.
What is the one thing you do for you, and only you? What is your outlet, your escape? Your timeout? Whatever it is, I hope you take the time to get to know it better, to encourage and sustain it; to find it if you haven’t already done so. And go there as often as you need.