Finding my stride and myself
From couch potato to running bean
Running has held many spaces throughout my life. It started off as a hobby in college, then as a stress reliever as I joined corporate America after graduation.
Running also helped me to quell that competitive part of me. I could run races and be competitive with other runners - they would have no clue that I pegged to out run them at the start of the race. It seemed to be a nice mind game that I could play with myself and win.
Also, at times running seemed to help me out run the demons in my head.
In a more physical sense, running also served as a great exercise that I could take anywhere I travelled in the world. I would use running to explore San Francisco, Copper Canyon, Phnom Pehn, Singapore, and many more.
Each time I travel, my first morning in a new city I always go on a run and it helps me to get acquainted with the little nooks and crannies of a city. It helps me see what life is like in a new city as the culture meets the day. Most lingering questions about a culture can be answered in a few short early morning runs: what is this city's routine? What are the people like? Do they go to cafes? Etc.
Then, in 2009, I moved to Wellington and my running began to take a different shape in my life. I began to no longer be motivated by the usual stress relief or competitive high. And my demons seemed to begin to catch up with me.
No matter where I went, my thoughts are always there. I started to wonder, had I built up a tolerance for dopamine and for outrunning what I was trying to run away from in life? The thought of my running not working for me anymore almost drove me mentally away from my running shoes.
As I looked deeper at this activity that had been such a big part of me over the years, I noticed it began to mirror life back at me. Yes, running is life. We have all heard or seen this cheesey quote on various running paraphernalia.
But this wasn't just a cheesy mantra. I was starting to live and discover the meaning. The meaning beyond the correlation of an injury while running is like getting knocked down in life. The meaning that makes one dig deep down to explore, why run? Why the pain? Why all the planning? What is this all for?
My life in New Zealand mirrored all these questions about work, friendship, family, my future, my past, and plaguing my present.
For years, I had been living for others; their wants, needs, how I could help them fix a problem, how I could be someone's solution. I never thought of myself as being an everything to everyone kind of person but once I stepped out of my routine back home and into a foreign land with a new life, I realised I was that person.
I never really stopped to ask what I loved in life, what I wanted in life, and most importantly, what I needed in life.
So, that is what my running turned into. A time of asking myself about me, even if it was just asking who am I running for? Do I really enjoy running?
The answer was always yes to running but no to those things that I was attaching running to. It was no to all the baggage I was mentally running with. It was letting go of the attachment to my identity of how others perceived me as the go-getter, the over-exerciser, the over-achiever, etc.
Thanks to the wonderful support system I had with my friends and husband in New Zealand, I could begin to look past these identities and create anew.
As I'm sure many runners can attest, it was time then to let go of all the races and get down to the joy of running.
This is what I found in the beautiful country of New Zealand. With my camelback in tow, I started to leave my house in Mount Victoria and just get lost in the land, finding myself in Ohiro Bay, catching a ferry to Eastbourne to run at East Harbour Regional Park, or taking a ride out to the trails in Upper Hutt.
In getting lost in life, I found myself in running. That is what fuels my runs. It is the freedom my running shoes give me to explore not only new land but also the new land within me.
The morning I left New Zealand to move back to the US, I got up before the sun and left the house for one more run, going to my favorite place on top of Mount Victoria to see the city rise with the sun.
Following my last run in New Zealand, I did what I had become accustomed to doing after a "let yourself go" type of run - I jumped into Oriental Bay for a quick swim with all my running gear on.
I found it a great way to say goodbye to a country and city that I loved. Homage for how New Zealand helped me to shed my mistaken identities and leave them there in the waters of Oriental Bay.
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