During my competitive cross-country running days it wasn’t uncommon for me to run five miles at 5AM and another ten miles at 10PM, six days a week. I was competitive. I wanted to win races. And I was smart enough to know that if I dedicated myself to extra training, while my opponents were sleeping or socializing, I would be one step ahead of them when we crossed the finish line.
When I first started these early morning and late night runs, the experience was rather brutal. My body didn’t want to cooperate. It ached and cramped up. And I found out that the only way to endure the extra training was to disassociate my mind from my body, putting my mind somewhere else while my body ran.
Over time, I became quite proficient at doing this. I got so good at it, in fact, that I actually looked forward to running. Because when I ran, my mind was clear and at peace with the world – especially when nobody else was around. In the midst of what seemed to be a strenuous workout, my mind was in a soothingly relaxed state… similar to that of a deep meditation.
I don’t compete in races anymore, but I still run almost every day. Even though I no longer have to, I typically still run in the wee hours of the morning or very late at night. And since my friends know that I have a flexible work schedule, most of them think I’m a bit weird for running at such ‘odd’ hours. I’ve tried to explain to them why I do it, and how it soothes my mind. But they can’t relate. So I’m still a weirdo in their eyes.
She Was Right
Last night, I went running on the Pacific Beach boardwalk at 11PM. It was calm and quiet out – just the way I like it. I was about three miles into my run when a peculiar looking woman sitting on the boardwalk’s barrier wall shouted, “Hey, you!” and then waved me down. My first inclination was to just ignore her and continue running. But my curiosity got the best of me. So I stopped.
The woman had long blonde dreadlocks, several piercings in her ears and nose, tattoos on both arms, and a Grateful Dead t-shirt on. She was strumming an acoustic guitar and had a thick, white joint burning in a small ashtray beside her.
She stopped strumming her guitar and began to chuckle as soon as she saw me looking down at the joint. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m legit. I have a medical prescription for it.”
“It’s none of my business,” I quickly replied.
“Anyway,” she continued. “Perhaps you don’t realize this, but it’s pretty late to be out exercising. I’ve seen you out here a few times before, running after midnight.”
“So, what’s your point?” I asked.
“Well thousands of people run on this boardwalk every single day, but you seem to be the only runner I see in the middle of the night. And it strikes me as being kind of weird. So what’s your deal?”
I told her about my love for a quite landscape, and the way in which running soothes my mind. “…like a deep mediation,” I told her.
She smiled, strummed once on her guitar, and took a drag of her joint. “Well then, I’m doing the same thing as you right now,” she replied. “Only in my own way – a way that works for me. Can you dig that?”
I stared at her for a second and then laughed, because I knew she was right. “Yeah, I can dig that,” I said. She winked and started strumming her guitar again. I winked back and started running again.
Some of us run in the middle of the night. Some of us strum acoustic guitars and smoke joints. And others go to church. Or sip expensive wine. Or surf on dangerous waves. Or jump out of perfectly good airplanes. When we try to understand people by personally relating to the things that they do, we usually can’t make any sense of it. Because it’s easier to see weirdness in a sea of normality, than it is to decode the logical methods behind one’s madness.
But when we look just a little deeper, by making a noble effort to understand people by truly listening to why they do the things that they do, they never seem quite as weird. Actually, they begin to seem…
Photo by: Zara