What Do You Think About When You Run?

AJW's TaproomLast weekend over coffee with a local philosophy professor I was asked, “What do you think about when you run?”

I’ve been asked this question before, of course, but something about the timing and the source gave me pause. In that context, I thought I’d ask around. The responses I got were wide ranging and thoughtful:

“Often running, but sometimes anything but…”

“Things I’ve been trying to work through.”

“As little as possible. The run is a chance to turn off the brain and just be.”

“When I run it’s my universe. Enjoying being natural.”

“Everything. Nothing. Whatever is necessary.”

“When it’s going good, I think of those in pain. When I am in pain, I think about how good I have it.”

Given these and the myriad other responses I received, I thought to myself, Perhaps I ought to think a bit more deeply about my answer?

In the moment, I dodged the question but on my run the next morning, I began digging for answers. As I am in the midst of one of life’s inevitable pivot points, the answer became more complicated and the search became more intense. At other times of transition over the past two decades, I have counted on running to provide me with a muse. That place in which I could bang ideas around and search for solutions to problems and challenges.

Over two decades, running has been for me that constant companion to be counted on in moments of change and transformation. Helping me with endings and beginnings, running allows me to come to a place of balance when instability runs amok. And so, I guess my answer to my philosopher friend might not be a simple one because, in essence, what I think about when I run is mostly life and living, making sense of the vicissitudes of my existence, and providing a place from which I can move on.

And, perhaps most of all, running provides me access to my wild, animal side. We are all, after all, still animals and getting into a flow state on a run opens that door for me. Once open, that door not only exposes my heart and soul, but inspires my mind as well. When all is said and done, what I think about when I run is me, my own fragility, and the ability to hope for a better future.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week is one I’ve been trying to get my hands on for a while and at long last I did. The Alchemist in Stowe, Vermont recently began producing the “baby brother of Heady Topper,” which they affectionately call Focal Banger. I single IPA brewed in the classic tradition, Focal Banger is floral and not overly hoppy with an amazingly creamy finish. It was clearly worth the wait!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • What do you think about when you run?
  • How does what you think about vary from day to day, season to season, or changes in your mood or life position?

There are 7 comments

  1. Doug

    At the start I’m trying to work through the day’s issues, then I typically zone out and the thoughts disappear, sometimes after my run I forget what I was even worrying about and realize it wasn’t that big of an issue to begin with

  2. nedbarrett

    Happy to be included in the answers, and I’m reminded of my graduate school days in Charlottesville, Va, one of the great East Coast running meccas. Another student in my program asked me if I continued to run at the end-of-semester crunch time. I told him it was exactly the running that let me get through the papers and tests and projects relatively unscathed, that without the running I’d probably be a mess. I also have said that running reminds me that my body works even if it feels like my brain doesn’t.

    Good stuff, AJW.

  3. Andy M

    I’m with you as far as accessing the wild, animal side which, with all due respect to anthropomorphism, precludes constructive thought. Philosophical musings are better done, IMHO, post-run over a couple of Focal Bangers.

  4. Robert

    Like you said a myriad of thoughts anywhere from; running form/stride/cadence, a song that is stuck in my head, the weather and how I’m feeling about such weather, things I need to take care of when I get back to the house, maybe an upcoming race or event.

  5. Kelly

    For the first mile-mile and a half- I focus on relaxing. Once that kicks in, I just try to hash it all out with the universe: how can I do better where I am struggling, what good stuff is going on in my life, how do I get more good stuff going, what can I do to make life better for my wife/friends/family/dog? Unless I’m running downhill. Then it’s just: quick feet, smile, fly.

  6. Nelson

    When I wrote for the Dallas newspaper, I could take an article idea with me on a run and come back with the article mostly written – if I could get on the computer or on a notepad right quick. Though I don’t wear headphones, I always have music with me now – usually the song that was playing when I turned off the engine in my truck the evening before. With all the blood and oxygen flowing, running is great for solving problems. I try not to think about work – why spoil a nice run?

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