05 November 2012

On Running, Extroversion, and Addiction

[Aside: I just had to correct a there/their typo in my last post. Seriously embarrassing, that.]

I have been running quite a bit. I've blogged about running before, although I'm too lazy to look back and see when I last wrote about my experiences with running. I've been running off and on now for about seven years, but these past three years have been the most consistently on of that time span, and the last year or so has been the most on of the on.

I like to run, just for the sake of running. That hasn't always been true, and, frankly, it's not the main reason I run. My main motivation for running is that I need to exercise to keep my sanity. Of all the things I do for myself—and I've gotten much better at being good to myself over the years—exercise is the most important one. When I exercise, my mental state is better, my physical state is better, I sleep better, I am just plain better overall. Running is an incredibly efficient form of exercise that does not require a gym membership or much special equipment.

Running is also a great way to be social. I'm an extrovert. I usually prefer the company of others to being alone, and I feel unsettled if I go very long without a conversation. Running is a fantastic way to combine my need for human interaction with my need for mental balance. I have strengthened personal and professional relationships through running. I've improved my running by making it a social activity. At this point, I have five standing social running dates per week on my calendar. In any given week, usually at least one of them doesn't happen, but it's rare for me not to get three running outings per week in the company of friends or colleagues.

I find that all kinds of conversations open up when you're running with someone. Something about the combination of being outdoors, engaging in a difficult task together, and keeping motivation up seems to bring up all kinds of conversational topics that might either not come up or be off limits in other situations. Being willing to sweat it out with someone creates a unique openness and bond. I know that some people like to have walking meetings at work, and I think running "meetings" accomplish the same thing.

I will run alone when no one else is available. Sometimes I do running meditations, chanting the Serenity Prayer to my footfalls, or listening to a particularly thought provoking song on repeat. I try to run at least four times a week, usually four to six miles at a time. I did a half marathon in June, and another one in October. I love running races; I usually spend part of the first mile crying at the overwhelming emotion of engaging in such an endeavor with a group of people who has worked hard to get there and reach that goal. I love seeing all the different kinds of people who show up to run races, people you would pass on the street and never have runner be the first word that comes to your mind upon seeing them.

My dad is a recovering alcoholic. He's been in recovery for over 20 years, something I'm super proud of and for which I'm deeply, deeply grateful. I'm also very aware of any habits I have that could indicate addictive behavior, and I see some of that with running. Sure, there are worse addictions to have, but it's the pattern and tendency I keep my eye on, not the specific activity. I tend to be overly devoted to habits; I once made a new year's resolution to floss my teeth daily and then didn't miss a day for something like ten years. Again, not a bad habit, and in neither flossing nor running am I ignoring other things in my life to feed the beast. But I think sometimes about the lengths to which I will go to rearrange my schedule for a run or how upsetting it can be for me if I go for more than a couple of days without hitting the streets. I'm not worried about it, but I'm aware of it, and I feel like there's something to my attitude about it that warrants some caution.

Mostly, though, it brings me joy, a sense of accomplishment, a bit of awe that I'm doing this thing I never in a million years would have thought I was capable of doing. Me, a runner. My mind—and the mind of anyone who knew me up through my late twenties—boggles.


ste said...

I started running 11 weeks ago. My Dad died suddenly and I needed something to accomplish on my own and also bring me some sanity so I could be a decent mom. I did the Couch to 5k even though I didn't think I'd be able to do it. Right now, running is a huge part of dealing with my grief and I am so proud of myself. Also, your post awhile back about running planted the seed. So thank you.

Alayna said...

I continue to be so impressed with your running and how consistent you are with it. And, I am thrilled to join you for a small but regular part of your running week :)

Flaming June said...

"Mostly, though, it brings me joy, a sense of accomplishment, a bit of awe that I'm doing this thing I never in a million years would have thought I was capable of doing. Me, a runner. My mind—and the mind of anyone who knew me up through my late twenties—boggles."
This is EXACTLY how I feel since I started running this summer! And, yes, I am slightly addicted... but aren't we all addicted to something? Love, recognition, coffee (lol!)

Maggie said...

So glad you're posting again!

OTRgirl said...

I've had trouble running because I keep trying to do it as a solitary activity. Maybe I need to try to set up running dates instead! Thanks for the idea.

LC said...

It's funny that you call running an social activity. I'm definitely more of an introvert and enjoy running because it's something I can do without having to interact with people. It actually screwed up my running mojo when my husband and I started running together as we're training to run a half-marathon together. Instead of just concentrating on myself and getting through it, I suddenly had to worry about what he was doing and he might want to talk, so I shouldn't listen to music. Basically, my pace slowed by 2 minutes a mile. Crazy. But I think it's awesome that running is the kind of sport that can work for both types of people.

Fairlington Blade said...

Speaking of running, Keen just did an 8K yesterday!