As an avid runner, it’s sometimes easy to forget the value of spending consistent amounts of time outdoors. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the training aspects of our running that we forget just how much time we are spending outdoors, and just how fortunate we are to have the time and the ability to do so.
It’s easy and popular to talk about how much we like to use our running to get out and explore wild places, but often we are not aware of just how lucky we are to simply be outside at all, even when the beauty and grandeur of our location isn’t particularly elevated.
Every now and again I have moments when this all becomes so obvious. Sometimes it’s spending time around people who don’t go outdoors at all. Other times it’s having something that prohibits me from getting out on a run, or outside at all for several days. And other times it simply hits me out of nowhere. Maybe I’m on a run that I’ve done dozens of times when I suddenly realize how lucky I am to be in that place at that time. Whatever the reason, I cherish these moments when I’m able to be so closely in touch with my appreciation of time spent outdoors.
I’m sure much of this appreciation stems from our ancestral history. At all other times of human history people have spent significantly more time outdoors than they do now. It can often be hard to tap into this legacy, but when we are able to there can be a very real and powerful connection to our ancestral past that draws us into the outdoor world.
There is also the reality that our modern culture which pushes us more and more indoors can be very busy, stressful, and chaotic. More often than not time spent outdoors is very simple and straightforward. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve gone out for a run and had my mind quiet down and relax almost instantly. Sometimes I’m not even aware of how busy my mind has been until I get into a run and it begins to quiet down. Some of this is from the rhythm of the running specifically, but most of it is from the soothing and healing aspects of the natural world that my runs take me to.
Another aspect of being outdoors that is so valuable and beneficial is the reality of just how vulnerable we can become in the outdoor world. Most of us don’t go out looking to be significantly humbled by the natural world, and we always try to make decisions which will bring us back safely, but when you become immersed in the outdoor world and pay close attention to everything going on around you, you can quickly be reminded of how precarious and precious this life is. It can be difficult and scary to feel so vulnerable, but it is from these places of vulnerability that we often learn the most about ourselves. There is a certain type of vulnerability that can only be experienced through spending time in the outdoor world. Having the habit of going outside for a run most days brings us in regular contact with this vulnerability, and subsequently makes us more aware of who we are and what we want and need to be happy and healthy.
This might all sound like I’m over-glorifying or over-dramatizing what it is like to spend time outdoors, but I think our experiences in the outdoor world can be every bit as glorious or dramatic as I’m touching on here, and often times even more so. Certainly not every outdoor experience feels glorious or dramatic, but even these seemingly uneventful ventures into the outdoor world can be very meaningful and valuable. In fact, I think the times that we least notice the value in our time outdoors might be the ones that mean the most. Having a regular connection to the outdoor world that is so habitual and so natural that I often don’t even notice it is probably the biggest reason that I find my running habit so appealing and so worthwhile.
There are certainly many ways other than running to go outdoors on a regular basis, and I don’t pretend for a moment that running is the only way to get this kind of satisfaction out of the outdoor world, but to me the simplicity of running pairs perfectly with the subtle and simple, but also deep and complex relationship that is developed by being outdoors on a regular basis. I have no idea if I’ll always be a runner, but I do know that if I ever stop running consistently I will need to find something else to replace the delights of the outdoor world that running brings to me on a nearly daily basis.
Time. Now. To. Go. Outside. And. Run.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- What kind of relationship do you establish with the natural world and with yourself during a run?
- Do you ever feel vulnerable when you are trail running? What makes you feel this way?
- What others sorts of satisfaction do you derive from trail running?