Not too long ago, my brother was telling me about all the reading he’d been doing. My brother already reads more than any other person on the planet, so for him to talk about excessive reading—you know it’s been a lot. He told me that he felt so “saturated” in stories and words—and the use of that word really struck me.
Now, I’ll admit that the word “saturated” tends to remind me of a sopping wet sponge—and it’s not exactly the prettiest of descriptive nouns. However, I think that it’s the perfect way to describe my current running relationship.
You’ve already heard a lot about how my training runs recently have been providing a lot of rejuvenation. They aren’t all effortless, relaxing, or even fun for that matter—but lately I seem to be getting a lot more out of my runs than I have in the past. Each has been sticking with me throughout the day, and I love having a new guise on the benefits of this sport. And I actually think the fact that they aren’t all easy, and in fact several are quite difficult, is part of the reason I’m feeling so motivated each day. Certainly, the effort and the exertion are killer, but by changing my more humdrum routine and trying on some more challenging workouts, I’ve not only improved my physical fitness but also my appreciation for all the potential this sport has to offer. I love that no matter what stage you’re at as a runner, there’s always a new goal to reach for, a new hill to climb (sometimes literally), and a new opportunity for growth. It’s these small challenges that can give us a daily dose of accomplishment—which, no matter how big or small, can be the thing that keeps us going.
Back to the saturation thing—it’s not so much that running has taken over everything else, but more that I’ve been allowing my running to positively impact the other things in my life. In essence, I’m carrying my running and my “runner self” around with me in other areas of my life, and because running has been so positive for me lately—it’s helping to make other things positive as well.
Maybe it won’t always be this way. I know firsthand that running isn’t always the best friend I want it to be. But for me, right now, I’m walking hand-in-hand with it—obeying its rules, allowing it to test me, and accepting that even when it’s hard, it’s still what I love.
Aside from the pitter patter of my feet on the pavement, the other way my life has currently been infiltrated by running is through literature. As if I wasn’t saturated in this sport enough, recently I’ve been engrossed in two novels written by running gurus. For me, reading about running really helps me to maintain a happy relationship with my own training. I love hearing about the experiences of other runners—their high points, their low points, and how running has made a difference for them. And since most of these people have mustered up the ability to write hundreds of pages and find someone to publish them, it’s a pretty safe bet that their running knowledge/experience is ample.
I’ve been doubling up on my running books these past few weeks—and each is very different from the other, which I like. I recently finished “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami, which is a lovely quick read about the famous Japanese author’s experience as a marathoner. The book is simple, poetic, and demonstrates how Murakami’s writing is fueled by his love of running. I really enjoyed it, and for anyone who appreciates the writing and/or running process, I recommend it.
The other book I’ve “read” (listened to as a book on tape) is ultramarathoner Scott Jurek’s new book “Eat and Run.” I knew going into this book that the details of Scott’s running and nutritional (he’s a vegan) journeys would be highlighted, but I have to say I was surprised with how much more I got out of this book. Scott certainly makes a compelling case for a plant-based diet, and his running career has definitely been astounding, but what struck me the most was his honesty about what running couldn’t fix in his life.
I think it’s really easy for athletes to sing praises about how running makes everything better, and how if you just go out for your workout things will be okay. Sure, endorphins are nice, and running can do powerful things—but Scott does a great job at showing how even one of the fittest, most successful endurance athletes in the world can lose their running mojo. Don’t get me wrong—the bulk of the book is about all the great things that the sport has given him. But, he’s also not afraid to speak on the tougher times he’s had, both in running and in life. I think it’s an important message to remember as runners. This sport is a transformational, consuming, and cathartic being—but it’s not everything. And although being a runner may be important to us, it does not encompass everything we have to offer.
Which brings me back to my saturation point. Although I’m definitely in a really positive running place right now, I’m recognizing that if I allow running’s benefits to transcend into my everyday life, I start to see everything else in a much brighter light. I have started to appreciate those other things more, and I want to internalize that although it’s partially in thanks to running that this appreciation has happened—it’s not because of running that they exist. Great things are always around us—whether we’re healthy, injured, loving running, or hating running, and the key is to pay attention to them in good times and in bad.
I know it’s easy for me to be positive about lots of things right now, because a big part of me (the runner part) is happy. But I’m going to work on carrying these feelings of general positivity with me as simply me. Not singularly as me the runner, but the me in all other parts of life.
So for now, I’m going to appreciate how I’ve become saturated in running. It’s one of my most favorite things in the world, and I’m gracious for my current health and physical abilities. But I’m also going to try and internalize that running isn’t the only thing that can provide happiness, and sometimes it’s good, as a runner, to step out of our shoes and take a look at everything else.