I took up running in the spring/summer of 2016. One morning I woke up early to run and beat the heat of the day. I tip-toed out of the bedroom and put on my clothes and shoes. I slid on my arm band and headed out the back door.
When I opened the door, I discovered it was raining. It was a quiet but deeply set in downpour. I could tell that it wasn’t going to pass soon. I could also sense that it had no malice. There were no turbulent winds or cracks of lightning or thunder that usually accompany a Chicago summer rain. Because I was dressed, and it was only rain. I decided to go out running anyway.
It was probably the most fun I’ve ever had running. I felt liberated. I didn’t feel obligated to sidestep puddles to keep dry. I was drenched by the time I hit the end of the drive. It was still and quiet- nobody else was out. It was just me- crazy me running in the rain.
That day, I ran for the joy of it, I didn’t worry about metrics such as speed or distance or heartrate, mainly because at the time I wasn’t really measuring anything. I was new to running, so just getting on my shoes and hitting the pavement was the only goal I had.
As time passed, I got more into running, and I acquired more “gear.” I started to use Strava to track my runs, and eventually; I got a smart watch that would track all sorts of measures and give me a bunch of stats.
I ran a few half marathons and finally I attempted a marathon during the 2020 lockdown. It was during the pandemic that I found myself stressed about running. I would be upset with my slow speed and high heartrate. I would run and come home and cry in the shower. I never acknowledged that it was an accomplishment to just get off the couch.
I hired a running coach who gave me workouts to get faster, and I did. But what puzzled both of us is that I didn’t have a goal other than to run and not get down on myself. I did many pep talks and hobbled through months of rote runs straining to keep positive.
But then I remembered that day running in the rain. I remembered feeling the freedom and not giving a rat’s ass about any of those stupid fucking measures, so the next time I went for a run I didn’t record it. I just went out and ran, and it was weird. It was like when I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I felt a little lost…disconnected…like I was going to miss something important. Several months later I realized that I was not missing a thing.
Perhaps my FB deletion helped with letting go of Strava because after that first undocumented run, I’ve felt so free. I’m not stressed about my speed because I don’t know what it is. Yes, I can tell my heart rate is high, but I’m running! And since I just moved to Maine, I have started to encounter these crazy things called hills, and they are bitchin’. In the positive and negative sense. I sound like Samuel L. as I huff up them but when I get to the top, I know that I conquered that motherfucker all on my own. AND I don’t have any app raining on my firework spectacular of accomplishment by telling me that some people could walk it faster than I ran it.
I don’t feel the need to justify my lack of distance to myself. I don’t have to convince myself that since I’m going up crazy hills that runs less than three miles are okay. I’m running to a pre-set destination and back. In the future, I might just set a certain amount of time.
I like running, and I lost the joy in it. I realize now that I lost the joy in it quite some time ago, and I should have stopped using Strava, unless actively training for a race where distance training matters, years ago because I remember early on struggling with getting down on myself because of speed.
There are a lot of things in life that don’t need to be boiled down to a number or documented for the world to see.
Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I travelled as much as we could. I would carry around my large, bulky camera and take endless photos. I love these pictures, I do, but what I remember are the moments when I didn’t have a camera stuck to my face. I remember great dinners and delicious wine. I remember waking in sunshine tangled in my husband’s limbs after a long, luxurious nap. I remember the run I did in Paris because I got lost not because of my speed. I remember coming around to the main staircase at the Louvre and seeing the Winged Nike and stopping dead. I had learned about her in an art history class and forgotten that she called the Louvre home. She is stunning. I did finally take several pictures, but it’s the moment of rounding that corner that I remember- a moment that couldn’t be captured on film.
I’m at a point in my life where I don’t need to be dictated by numbers. In the past few days, I’ve sat in the golden Maine sunshine and done nothing but read, write, and run. I have not had a to do list of things to prove my worth quantifiably, and I haven’t felt this much fucking joy possibly ever. Finally, I understand that happiness has no numeric metric. We want it to because then it feels more attainable.
The Hulk’s secret is he’s always angry, so perhaps happiness’s secret is not grabbing on and obtaining but in letting go…in letting be.
Social media has given us a compulsion to prove happiness and thus quantify it, and weirdly, others do the quantifying for us with their likes and comments. It’s an external source that deems our “happiness” good enough or not.
Blogging could fit into this category, but like running it’s an outlet. It feels far less personal than posting a picture on FB and only getting one like perhaps because the picture is in real time- a rawer state of self and because liking something on FB is so goddamned easy that it hurts, stupidly so, but it does nevertheless, when people that you know aren’t deeming your life satisfactory.
So, fuck the metrics, I’m running in the rain. I don’t know how far or how fast, but I don’t care because it doesn’t matter. I’m letting go and it feels so much better, more than I ever thought possible.