I ran the same trail this morning that I’ve been running a few times a week for the last 12 years. Actually, it wasn’t quite running, per se. I’m more of a jogger than a runner, really.
Real runners are not passed, like I was this morning, by another runner six months pregnant. People, I saw her belly passing me before I saw the rest of her. She was carrying another human being inside her body, and she passed me on the trail, all light and breezy on her Nikes, chirping out a happy “Morning!” while I lumbered and panted in the midst of jogging-induced Lamaze.
Real runners do not burn more calories rearranging their too-short running shorts than they do actually running. I tell you, I’ve eaten sub sandwiches longer than running shorts. Why, why, why do they make running shorts so short? Like we don’t have enough to do just to get through the run itself, without tugging at our shorts the whole way? Can someone please invent Bermuda-length running shorts?
Real runners do not get passed twice by the same woman on the same morning. She’s the size of a cricket, and I swear she lurks behind my backyard hedge every morning, timing her run perfectly so she can pass me twice on the trail.
Yet despite these humiliations, I keep on jogging. I plod. I lumber. I lurch. I pant and heave and tug at my shorts. Why do I even bother, you might ask? Four reasons:
1. I jog so I can eat six Oreos at a sitting with a glass of red wine while I watch House Hunters on HGTV. I know all the magazines say that exercising so you can eat greater quantities of bad food is absolutely the wrong reason to exercise, but I’m telling it like it is around here: I jog so I can eat multiple Oreos.
2. I jog because I battle depression. Even though I take medication every day for it, an endorphin high on top of my daily Cymbalta makes things that much better.
3. I jog because it fuels my creativity. I didn’t realize the connection between exercise and creativity until I heard molecular biologist John Medina speak at a writers’ conference at Laity Lodge last year. I don’t remember all the scientific reasons for how it works, but John instructed us to exercise for 40 minutes or so and then write immediately afterward, even before showering, even before the sweat has dried to salt.
When I heard this I was skeptical. After all, I figured, what does a molecular biologist know about creativity? Turns out, a lot. So now, before I leave the house, I plant a verse or an idea in my head – something I think I might want to write about that day – and then I run four miles, dash back in the door, plunk into my chair (I sit on a towel) and write. John Medina is brilliant. He talks a mile a minute, like he downed six Mountain Dews right before he stepped up to the podium, and your head will spin in circles like the Poltergeist girl when you listen to him, but the guy is a genius.
4. I jog because it reminds me how to be content with second (or third, or fourth or 400th) place. When I run, I’m not out there to win it. I’m simply out there to put one foot in front of the other, to keep the process moving in the right direction, to keep focused on my own personal goals – not the pregnant lady’s, not the cricket lady’s, just mine.
“Be content with second place,” Paul tells me in Colossians (3:12-14, The Msg. ) “Be content with obscurity.” (Colossians 3:4, The Msg). Running – lumbering, plodding, tugging, lurching – reminds me that it’s not all about being first or famous.
Mostly it’s simply about staying in the race.