“My runs are exercises in mindfulness”

Text by Jaymes Shrimski and photos by Dana Carmella

Sitting on the all-so-familiar edge of my bed, sliding my feet snugly into my second pair of running shoes for the year (it’s only March), I think of what’s ahead for the rest of the day.

A pang of anxiety makes itself felt. The day is to be a busy one, replete with errands, things to write, and meetings to be had. It’s a good thing it’s hardly six, the sun lazily making its way up. My laces are tied. I barely had to think about tying them; so used to this process that I’ve developed an enviable degree of automation with my shoe-tying technique.

I amble out the door and am on my way. The run is almost like any of the others, the air light and cool, the sky smeared white, pink, and blue. I notice the itching anxiety has drowned in a sense of serenity, the kind one often experienced over periods as a sneaker-clad being pattering around in the early morning.

Every now and again I make sure to speed up just a bit, allowing tension and the pain of lactic acid to build up in my thighs and calves. More than just a meditation to welcome the day’s awakening, this is an endeavor for me to test myself—to do it but even just a little bit better than yesterday.

Some days I succeed and outdo myself. Other days, and that is most of them, I don’t.

Regardless of which day it is, a surge of endorphins rushes through my brain, ringing around my body. My face may have swelled to resemble a rather hairy red tomato (a sweaty one at that), but the owner of all said body parts is happy—an emotional mixture of having accomplished something and an indescribable neurotransmitted ecstasy.

Granted the climactic culmination of each run, it comes as no surprise that I’d agree with you if you told me I’m addicted to it. I was the guy in a sweaty pair of running shorts and grubby trainers clocking a 5K run at around 12:30 during his lunch break. On these glorious scampers, through strained squints, I managed to catch my fair share of strange looks but could not have cared less. Throwing all concern of what an observer thought into the wind, I would have ran under the heat of the sun or the torrent of a storm (admittedly, there was one particularly memorable typhoon run).

My addiction however is a bit more peculiar than it might already appear. The strides I take aren’t taken in mere contemplation of the endorphin hit at the run’s end. The reasons for which I find myself on the all-so-familiar edge of my bed tying up my laces are far less biological, much less, signs of addiction.

Come what may, successes or disappointments, in work or what-have-you, I will have either bettered myself or had a great workout. The day has been won

I run because it makes me feel in control. Regardless of how much a day has in store for me, the fact that I can take ownership of time reminds me that demands on my time are exactly that: demands. To these I may offer my acceptance or denial. The time is mine after all.

I run because I enjoy surmounting challenges. At 7am on the mornings I have run, I can lay claim to having succeeded for the day. Come what may, successes or disappointments, in work or what-have-you, I will have either bettered myself or had a great workout. The day has been won.

I run because being a sneaker-clad being pattering around can be a good thing. I choose to run with as little with me as possible. Clothes are a given for the respect of the good public, but cellphones and earphones are not welcome on my runs. This is a space in which I may detach myself from the demands of time, others, and media. The clouds look more fluffy, the sky is bluer, and the pink tint from the sun is more apparent. My runs are exercises in mindfulness.

More than being the thin kid with the splendidly calm heart rate, fast pace, and “nice butt” (I was told to type that), I hope to possess a healthy sense of self. The reasons for which I run reach far farther than simply staying in shape. For if that were the sole reason, it’d be likely that I would have given up on running quite some time ago. 

The clarity afforded to us joggers of both respectable and disreputable hours is the bedrock on which quality thoughts and actions are made throughout a day. A sense of control, the rising to a challenge, the strength of having done all this by breakfast. These are the rewards for which I gladly chuck my phone on my bed, rouse myself out the door, and put one foot in front of the other. By 7am, I might be a huffing, puffing tomato, but my day has already been won.