Now that we’ve hit the back side of March, I think it is safe to speak of winter drawing to a close. Here in central Illinois, this winter was typical—several weeks of brutal cold and wind along with a fair amount of snow and ice. Not the worst, but bad enough to upset my delicate fortitude when it comes to running. My new work schedule now requires running in the wee hours, before the light of day reveals icy patches or warms my bravery to face the biting wind.
And so I found myself forced to the treadmill. It was better than not running at all, but only barely. January through the first week of March, I forced myself to the gym twice a week for a four-mile run in the sleek new Cardio Theater—a dimly lit room in the gym with cardio equipment and a giant screen of distraction (that is, movies on continuous loop, all the day long).
Despite the distraction, once the weather broke two weeks back, I was relieved to hit the roads. As you’ve likely read here before, I have a love/hate relationship with running. I really love it—when it’s done. But two months of the Cardio Theater revealed yet another reason to appreciate running in general and outdoor running in particular: It gives my brain a much-needed rest from distraction.
I could not believe the quiet I found outside as I clipped along familiar routes that I hadn’t seen since December. In that space, my thoughts had freedom to roam, to process, to reach out to my God. As much as I try to arrange for such mental quiet each day, it’s nothing like this. I have no options for distraction on an outdoor run—no music, no social media, no books, no food, no shows. My brain can follow thoughts from one topic to another, sort out ideas, grow impassioned about causes, and identify new writing projects to explore. My brain is recharging and refueling with every step. In this way, I am finding rest as I grow weary running. Quite the paradox.
Distraction was necessary for me to survive the treadmill. But survival mode is no way to live a life. I need the space and quiet that outdoor running offers me. My appreciation for running has grown over winter, thawed to life a bit with the arrival spring.