Am I Running or Am I Standing Still?

by Jodi Galin, Ph.D.

walden_beautyI really enjoy running. I don’t run very fast or go really long distances. Speed, distance, and time purposefully are omitted from my description as that information is not as relevant to my internal experience.

I run on a bike path where the trees and surroundings are really beautiful. Typically there are other runners, walkers, bicyclists and dog walkers around contributing to the pleasurable outdoor setting. On some of my runs another runner passes me so quickly that I have the impression that I must be standing still. Frequently this runner is an adolescent or young adult male but I also have been passed by other women in my age range. When my brain kicks in to process that I am not standing still just so much slower than the sprinter, a quick judgmental voice within me sounds, “You are so slow!” I catch myself and remind myself what running does for me on the inside not for external cues or achievement needs and then the moment is gone.

The number one reason that I run is that I feel good inside when I am finished. Right inside my lungs, my breath, that centered place inside of me. There are other benefits too: sleep, heart and bone health, general fitness, and mood.

When people in my life find out that I run, often I am asked if I am going to run a 5K, 10K, marathon. Sometimes others share with me their monitoring devices, computerized watches and bracelets that record their times, distances, speed, general stats. . . I don’t know what they are recording. I always ask the same question, “What do you do with the information?” Answers range from “nothing, I haven’t figured it out yet” to “graph it” to “keep track to know my progress and improvement.” I still don’t understand.

Perhaps other runners are running for different reasons than I do. While I understand the accomplishment felt by many when completing a race or achieving a time that is a personal best, my goals can’t be measured that way. There are no statistics that can measure the calm that running brings me. In fact, an external number measuring details of my running may interfere with the internal stillness the exertion provides me.

So, I have made peace with all those stealth runners who pass me on the path and leave me feeling as if I am standing still. Perhaps I can use the lighthearted reframe that they too are contributing to the internal stillness that I search for by moving my body.