June 21, 2018

Balancing on a runner’s tightrope

Last week, I went for my first jog in a few months. My iPod died shortly after departure, and I was too stubborn to turn around. The tuneless run left me time to think; why had I not run in a while?

Laziness would be the most logical explanation, but that is the tacit answer to many questions about me. There has to be something more lurking under the surface.

I absolutely detest runners as a whole, but running culture in particular. I could not even get through a chapter of Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” When Murakami says, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optimistic,” I respond snarkily in my head, “the pain comes from reading this self-serving ode to mall walking.” I would never say that to him in real life though because I cannot stand conflict. I run away from that metaphorically and sometimes physically, every day. That is the one type of running I can do without resentment gnawing at me.

I am not sure where my loathing of runners came from. A feeling this deep inside must stem from something deeper, maybe a repressed childhood memory. Maybe it is a lingering feeling of inadequacy from my brief high school athletic career, riddled with dropped passes and head injuries.

Maybe what I really hate about it is the fear of what I could become. Without careful self awareness, I could end up being the crazed, bone-thin lunatic who wakes up at 3 a.m. to run around the block. I could wind up the lonely marathon runner, who never married or worse, I could have a partner who runs with me. Our diet would consist of mush and Kombucha.

The mold of the character has been cast, and each day I am alive, I fear more of me is being poured to fill it.

Later on in “What I Talk About”, Murakami reminds readers, “When I’m running, I don’t have to talk to anybody and don’t have to listen to anybody.” That is something I can get behind. My best memories of running, and sports in general, are based around the shutting out of others. I’m in the zone, and nobody else is allowed in.

There is an intersection where resentment and contentment meet to create the purest form of bliss  and that is what I think that headspace is. I can only get there when I run.

The trick is to find a balance. It is possible to balance generic feelings of contempt for the average runner and maintain a healthy relationship with running  . It is a tightrope, and I teeter on it every time I jog. The pit of self-hate and the pit of self parody, each grabbing at me, trying to pull me off

The next time I run, I will make sure my iPod is charged.

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