I am often asked the question: “Why do you run?” I used to give a generic response: “To stay fit and healthy.” That is the truth, but it is no longer the reason why I run. The real reason why I run is because running makes me a better person. Everything I do during my runs transfers to other facets of my life. There is a release of pressure and I become more centered and aware of what happens in other areas of my life. I have the discipline and drive to wake up early and head out for a run whether it is 90 degrees with 100% humidity or 20 degrees and snowing. I take on challenges I never imagined I could push through. I endure and keep going even when I feel like quitting.
I have only been teaching at a Quaker school for 3 months and I still know next to nothing about Quakerism, but I do know one thing for sure: I can choose my own thoughts during Meeting for Worship. We sit in silence every Friday morning for about 30 minutes. Honestly, at first I thought it would be impossible. However, I had some previous experience teaching my students to sit silently since Maria Montessori was also an advocate of silent moments. I still couldn’t fathom myself doing it, let alone my first graders. Yet, it happened. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much silence I maintain throughout my longest runs.
Some people are baffled by the fact that I can run for 6 hours without music. I suppose I just rely on my mind for entertainment. Maybe it isn’t quite the same as sitting in silence and centering your mind, but I still reflect and build upon a higher level of awareness. The refreshing part about it for me, is that I am not told what to reflect on. There is no scripture or preaching. However, there is joy in knowing that the colorful trees I run past or the sparkling lakes I gaze upon were placed here by an entity I can not see. I use the gifts I have been given to contribute what I can. I see value in upholding strong morals and showing kindness to others. I don’t always get it right all of the time, but who does?
I have always been an open-minded individual. Everyone has their own destination and they choose the best path to get themselves there. We are lucky that we were given the freedom to create our own journey in this world. I choose running as my place of solitude, as my connection to something that is greater than myself, as my “religion.” It is not organized. There is no book. There is no leader. It’s just me, my thoughts, the world I am running through and the possibility of something more.