“The gun goes off and everything changes … the world changes … and nothing else really matters.”
~ Patti Sue Plumer,
American long-distance runner
Running is an effective weight-management tool, and it smooths the rough edges on my stress profile, too.
I know for a fact I am bitchier on days I don’t get exercise. When I need quiet time, I put on my Asics and dash out the door. I often run with my iPod, but when I’m in a pickle, I leave it behind and just pound the pavement while I think about my breathing.
I distinctly remember a 6-mile run on a summer day five years ago. The day before, I had to lay off two staff members, and it felt like choosing which toes I wanted to have removed. I have no doubt that black day was more awful for the two women I laid off, and I don’t mean to minimize their experiences as I lament my role in middle-management. But (yes, but!) unless you’re Cruella DeVille, telling people you’ve hired and mentored that their contributions are no longer necessary to the company’s continued success is difficult. Unable to sleep, I got up at 5 a.m. and just ran. It helped me cope with the pit in my stomach.
Three years ago, when I was trying to figure out my place in my new community in Illinois and before I found the great group of friends in my book club, I reveled in the solitude of a run. The little village where I live doesn’t have culture, shopping or a night life to speak of, but it offers miles of quiet, crime-free roads on which to run.
Last summer, in the midst of an excruciatingly painful custody battle that interfered with my ability to eat (oh, to have such problems), I still ran, albeit more slowly, but I ran. That trial passed, too, but at the time, running was like pounding a pillow for me (and legal, considering the alternatives that crossed my mind).
This week, I am in Minnesota, and my stress is at an all-time low. No employer is placing unreasonable demands on me, and even my unemployment is nothing special in light of the millions of Americans in the same boat. I am surrounded, literally and figuratively, with wonderful friends. My familial relationships are copacetic.
And still, a nice quiet run keeps the peace for me. The volume control on my iPod is acting up (who knows why technology can be so impertinent — again, to have such problems) so yesterday as I ran around the campground, Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That” faded away to nothing. I removed my ear buds and listened to the wind in the trees and counted my blessings.