I don’t run all year round—I usually stop running sometime in early November, and don’t start again until the first 68º+ day of the year. Running outside when it’s cold is terrible, and I just know I would slip on some ice and bleed out off the beaten path. And then I’d be found by children on their way to school, and it just wouldn’t be great.

But today the high was 70º and sunny, so away I went along the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge. This essay is in honor of the inaugural outdoor run of the year.

Running is interesting because:

  • You can do it by yourself, or with others.
  • You can listen to music, or not.
  • You can run indoors or outdoors.
  • You can wear some standard gym attire, or go for the (wonderfully) ridiculous neon shoes runners are known to possess.
  • You can run one mile, or 10+.
  • You can run slow, or you can run fast.
  • You can assiduously track every stat about your run (mph, length, calories, elevation, and so many other things). Or you could just step out the door and make your legs carry you however far you feel like.

It’s a wonderfully versatile sport, which means that it’s also open to many different kinds of people. I would never say that everyone should run, because there are many ways to move and some people just hate running, but I do think that there’s a good amount of people in the world who should try it for a month. That’s long enough to allow your body to adjust to what you’re making it do, and long enough to get sufficient experiential data to see your near-future trajectory.

The very first time I ran was when I signed up for the 7th grade track team, which was motivated in large part by the knowledge that my mother ran track when she was in high school. The first day of practice, our coach had everyone run one mile on the track. It was absolutely one of the worst physical experiences of my life up until that point—I was a thin, frail, asthmatic kid, and I took 17 minutes to run that mile. For perspective, I usually walk miles faster than that now.

But I wanted to be a runner for a variety of reason, so I stayed with the sport. I’m glad I did, because it’s a way to experience sunshine in solitude, even in a city. I also derive immense satisfaction and self-esteem from building my body and making it faster, and testing its speed regularly.

And also I get to wear my running tights.

Side note: I’m a writer, and also a runner. This seems to be a common pairing. When I think about why, I think about something Anne Rice (author of Interview with the Vampire) said in a 1988 interview with Writer’s Digest:

“Unlike moviemaking, dancing, classical music, painting–anything at all–writing requires a minimum of equipment, yet allows for a maximum of expression of passion and creativity.”

Both writing and running are bare manifestations of movement and expression, with little need of other equipment or medium other than the person doing them. And both allow many people to feel and express many things.

This post is part of my project to write one essay every day of February 2018. The essay topics will vary, but they’ll all be something I’m interested in. All essays can be found here.