It’s always funny to me when people (often yogis) ask why I run. Because I don’t think I have an adequate answer. Does anyone have an answer for why they do something that’s second nature? It’s like asking why you hold a fork or a pen a certain way.
Because it feels right.
Because that’s how I do it.
I don’t know.
Recently, newest OG addition, Laura Nelson, asked me this very question, and because she tends to pose great questions (we met last year while she was interviewing me for a Boston Globe article) and I like her, I wanted to do better than shrug dumbly and say, “I dunno; I like to sing to myself and look at the geese along the Charles River…”
Among the many reasons why I need running in my life (as opposed to strictly yoga, yoga, and more yoga) is the space it allows me to think. Some runners call it “meditation,” but, to be fair, this is inaccurate—partly because thinking can involve so many f-bombs while running.
When I meditate on a zafu cushion or yoga mat, my goal is to observe my thoughts, remain in the present moment, and just be. If brooding, speculating, or daydreaming occurs, I practice detachment and the patient, sometimes painstaking, skill of staying focused on the moment as it’s unfolding. When I run, I do the opposite. I let my mind go there. I brood. I speculate. I daydream. I visualize. I talk to myself. I talk to other people (in my head). I write blog posts that may or may not ever see the light of day, which means—in a way—I talk to you. Sometimes, I’m out there purely for athletic reasons: speed, endurance, or fitness. Occasionally, I feel like I discover some huge secret of the universe. It usually happens somewhere around the Mass Ave. bridge at sunset, and it’s not so much a big secret as the assured, faith-filled feeling that there are no secrets, that the answers I need have been with me all along, like Dorothy and her ruby slippers and the ability to go home whenever she wanted.
Instead of red ruby slippers, I have neon Nike frees, and I’m not clicking their heels together as much as I’m kicking them up behind me to propel myself forward. I’m not meditating on the present moment as much as I am thinking about what’s next. Because both are essential: observing what is and planning what you want next—out of life or for dinner. For me, these are embodied in the mindsets cultivated through yoga and running, the difference between meditating and thinking. I like the way they go together—like two sneakers, one for the left foot, one for the right. Together, a pair.
Why do you run?