Exercise has always held an important place in my life. The reasons for its necessity continually change over time (health, meditation, weight loss, enjoyment), but it has been a constant for as long as I can remember. When I think of my childhood, I think of practicing handsprings in the grass of our front yard, doing back flips off of my best friend Mikie’s couch, running up and down Willamette Blvd, and biking around the lush campus of the University of Portland. When I recount favorite moments in my life to friends, inevitably they involve some sort of physical activity – the time I ran 18 miles in Paris one morning because I couldn’t stop, the exchange I had with a wild dog in a Costa Rican rainforest during a mid-day jog, and the joy of making that winning basket or home run.
Until last year, my favorite form of exercise was, without a doubt, running. Growing up it had been gymnastics, but anyone who has ever watched the Olympics or tried to do a cartwheel beyond their teens knows the career-expectancy of that particular sport. Running, on the other hand, can be practiced well into old age, as many an elderly marathoner can testify. Not only is it sustainable over one’s lifetime, it’s one of the simplest things you can do. One foot in front of the other. Repeat. Not much to it, beyond a good pair of running shoes and a sports bra (and those aren’t even actually required!)
In many ways, running has been one of the most essential things in my life. It has gotten me through breakups, writer’s block, finals weeks, anger, sadness, holidays, family vacations. It’s like a medicine for me, a shot of endorphin to ease the pain, lift my spirit, pump my blood, keep me alive. Some of my most creative thoughts have come on mile 5 of a morning jog, moments in which the clutter in my brain gets sorted and the heart of the matter just seems to burst forth – AHA! Now I understand what Bergman was getting at in Persona, now I see the missing piece in my screenplay. It’s incredible the way running can set up a routine for your life, one that teaches you how to function better in the world. It’s what Murakami talked about in “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running.”