Finding Inner Peace Through Running

I like to think that I don’t rely too much on running. I regularly take long breaks from it, as it generally feels mentally and psychologically good to do so. I don’t feel like I need to do it everyday to be content and satisfied. Furthermore, I haven’t always been a runner, and it’s quite likely that I won’t always be a runner. This said, I do find it nearly impossible to ignore just how much peace, quietness, and stability running brings to my life. No matter how out of control something might seem, I know that I can always go for a run and feel in control and content. This reality has been very obvious to me this year.

For various reasons I have not done as much running the second half of this year as I might have hoped to. I had some nagging injuries through a large chunk of the summer; I bought a house in July; and I have been sick three times since August. (Teaching PE at a K-8 school has been a lot of fun, but not so good for avoiding nagging colds.) All of these things have combined for a pretty chaotic six months of running, but the moments through all of this that I have been able to feel most relaxed and at ease have been when I’ve been able to put everything else aside and get out for a run.

I think this has a lot to do with the simplicity of running. Working through illness and injury; packing and moving everything you own to a new home; living in said new home with nearly everything you own packed away in boxes–these things all cause disorder, chaos, and disorganization. Running on the other hand is so simple and so natural that I can always find peace in it.

Sometimes it takes several minutes to find this, but usually by the time I am just a few minutes into a run, my mind is able to let go, even in these times of general disorder in the rest of my life. Almost instantly when running along a good trail, I am able to find deep contentedness. Here I am only moving through the land, feeling closer and closer to inner peace as I go. By the time I am a few miles into my run, I am totally in a groove and feel like I could run forever. If I just keep running maybe I will never need to unpack the pile of stuff in the spare bedroom, or maybe my nagging head cold will decide to give up the fight it’s been having with me for much of the past two weeks. From here onward, I notice almost nothing. It might be raining, as it often is in Juneau, Alaska but I don’t notice if it is or not.

If I’m running a trail that I know really well, it becomes even easier to zone out and get completely removed from any stress in my head. Miles simply happen, and often for the first time in several days things just seems simple and ‘right.’

Eventually the trail ends and I must turn around and return to the chaos of normal life, but before I do, I get to descend. I go through this whole sequence all over again, only in reverse this time. For most of the return I notice nothing, only ease and contentedness.

By the time I am back home, I begin to remember that I still can’t find anything in my pile of boxes, and that I need to write this article, and that I am still a little sick. For that one hour, though, I didn’t think about any of this. I just ran. One foot in front of the other. It really is this simple, and it really is the one thing in my life that always brings me this kind of peace, no matter how much everything else might be bringing chaotic disruption.

None of this is to say that I can’t live without running. Running simply replaces other things which might bring this same kind of peace: reading, writing, yoga, meditation, art, and countless other activities. For me, though, at this point in my life, it is running that I turn to. I like that it takes me into the natural world. I like that it keeps me in good physical shape. I like that it creates a network of interesting people with whom I share our sport.

More than anything, though, I like the peace that it brings me in the midst of everything else that is going on in my life. As long as I can lace up the shoes and run down a trail, I can find a simple and relaxing place that brings me peace and happiness. It doesn’t make any of the chaos disappear, but having an hour or two in which I don’t think about the chaos does so much to balance everything and help me figure out how to bring the chaos to a more grounded and manageable place.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • How often do you find yourself using running to calm the frayed nerves that the rest of life can create?
  • Do you intentionally call upon running for this process or does it subconsciously happen?

There are 3 comments

  1. TonyMollica

    Geoff as you teach you'll build up your immunity, and get sick a lot less. I was sick a good bit my first year in teaching and it got better after that. By the end of my career I was hardly ever sick.

  2. RyneAnderson

    Glad to hear teaching PE has been fun. Teaching provides much gratification and much frustration. Fortunately the gratifying moments nearly always erase the frustrating episodes.

    This article resonated so well with me. Just the simple task of running brings so much mental clarity and a quick escape from all the mental stresses that constantly swim around my mind. The cool thing is that I never have to make a conscious effort to slow my mind down or think about "nothing" while running. My mind just naturally finds that calm state.

    Great article Geoff.

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