I run a lot.
Not so much out of athleticism as out of necessity. When I am upset or frustrated or confused, I put on some shorts and take off. Lately, I’ve come to realize that running is my own personal form of escapism. Some people do drugs or binge watch netflix to escape. I lace up my Nike’s and hit the dirt.
When I’m running, I can shut out the world. I put my headphones in and the music that flows through them is not important so long as it’s LOUD. I’m the type of person who gets stuck inside my head, so I turn up the volume until it’s loud enough to drown out my own persistent thoughts. I channel my frustrations into my legs, pounding on the pavement or kicking up dirt in a violent rhythm. Each stride is filled with the purpose of carrying me farther and farther away from whatever monster of my mind has been eating at me that day. And if I can’t run away from it, then I’ll run it into the ground.
After the first couple of miles, exhaustion begins to kick in. Because like I said, I don’t pretend to be a marathon runner with polished form or technique. I just run. Things get better once the fatigue hits. Now I’m distracted not only by the music pulsating through my ears and the sweat dripping down my brow, but by the intense focus needed to simply force myself to keep going. I wipe away the salt from my eyes. My breathing becomes increasingly labored. It hurts to press on. My mind wrestles with my body and demands that I move forward. And this is where I find peace. This is where all the thoughts in my mind are forcibly stamped out by two simple words: “keep moving.” There’s no room for anything else. No room for questions or anger or disappointment.
This is unhealthy.
To be clear, I think running is a great emotional outlet that I don’t plan on quitting anytime soon, but as a form of escapism it’s unhealthy. Because when my body comes to a stop, when my breathing is even again, whatever I was running from is still there. I can’t outrun the monsters anymore than I can outrun myself. I know that’s true when I get out of the shower after a run and within a few minutes feel the restless urge to pull my shoes back on and do it all over again. The monsters are still there. We all run in different ways. Each of us has our own personal escape, and not all of them are obviously detrimental. Some are deceptive. We escape into video games, drinks, work, smoking, movies, books etc. As outlets, these things are okay, so long as we’re not using them as running shoes. At some point we’ve got to take those shoes off and just sit with ourselves; barefoot and exposed.
The Avett Brothers have this great line in their song “Weight Of Lies.” They sing, “When you run make sure you run, to something and not away from, cause lies don’t need an aeroplane to chase you anywhere.” The idea that we can run from and escape reality is an enticing lie, but a lie nonetheless. None of us are fast enough. Instead, we must turn around and face it. We must face our fears, face our insecurities, face the lies that we are told and the lies we tell ourselves. We must run towards reality. Because when we do, we run towards freedom.