You never see someone jogging with a smile on their face. That was the excuse a person with whom I used to teach provided while explaining why she never took up jogging.
This past weekend, the northeast finally saw some spring like weather. It felt great to finally get off of the treadmill and jog outside. I love to jog, but time on the treadmill seems to drag. I think it is the fact that the timer is right in front of you, reminding you just how much longer you will be running in place. More than once I have looked down, read that I had twenty minutes until I am done with my run, looked up at the TV, and the next time I looked down I had twenty-five minutes remaining. Then when those numbers do finally reach zeros, the distance may read five miles, but when you look at the space in which you just spent 43 minutes of your life, you realize the actual distance covered was approximately two-and-a-half feet!
Jogging outside is different. The fresh air, the change in scenery, the near misses of tractor trailers driving by too fast…ok, two out of three ain’t bad. The point is, after being stuck in my cellar all winter, jogging outside is a nice change. Besides, jogging outside is much more than just getting exercise.
Like most people these days, I am a very busy person. I have two teenage sons who keep me going all the time. I am vice president of a regional facility services provider that keeps me on the go starting at 6 AM each day. I serve on three different committees in our church and at times assume extra roles such as helping with the youth groups. I coach an AAU basketball team which practices a couple of times a week and plays in tournaments on the weekends. Oh, just to make sure I was left with no idle time in which to get into trouble, I have been elected a selectman for the town in which I live. Needless to say, I don’t get much down time to just turn off the brain and relax. Jogging provides me that down time.
Once a jogger hits the road, there are no distractions, discounting the occasional loose dog who helps you pick up your pace. The rhythmic pounding of your feet provides the perfect backdrop to just drift for a while. There are periods when I will think about something that may be bothering me, and that time on the road allows me to work things through and keep things in proper perspective. Other times I may be reconnecting with God, having a frank and honest discussion with the Lord about what is happening in my life. Sometimes there are no organized thoughts at all, instead just taking in the surroundings of the beautiful town I call home.
I have found running can help me with the challenges of parenthood. It is while on the open road that I can think through the latest escapade of my teenage boys and how to deal the fallout. Being a quick-tempered individual, a five-mile run allows me the time to cool off, calm down, and come up with a rational response to a less than stellar report card or the wise ass answer to my last request. Of course, sometimes this requires an eight or nine mile run. If you see me in the midst of a twelve-mile run…well, don’t ask.
As I turn onto my street and sprint that final hill back to my house, I push myself as hard as I can. It’s like a reminder that I am not only out here for my mental health, and some would question whether or not that’s working, but also for my physical health. Once I reach the edge of my driveway, I finish with a brisk walk around the block. While on my walk, I reflect on how great the run was for me; physically, mentally, and spiritually.
And that my friends, is when you will see this jogger smile.