For a few minutes, I ran into the sunrise. The orange hues of the morning sky washed the landscape in front of me. My sometimes litter-strewn neighborhood looked brilliant for a moment as the beauty of the sky overpowered the random Pepsi bottle in the shoulder of the road. I smiled. I was only in my first mile, but I was running free this morning. And everything was feeling good.
“Keep it easy,” I said to myself. “Easy days easy.” It’s a mantra of my friend Hitch and one I try to adopt. Easy days easy. Hard days hard. This run, I reminded myself, was an easy run. Tomorrow’s schedule includes a track workout. That’s where I push myself the hardest. I could try to kill this 8 mile run and brag about my pace on social media. But that would merely be an exercise in hubris. And the few run-ins I’ve had with Greek mythology have taught me that hubris never wins in the end. My easy pace is mine and mine alone. And so I continued to run.
The plan was to break up the 8 miles. I ran two separate out-and-backs from my house so that at the 4 mile mark I could get a drink of water. Mentally that broke the run up into four sections — two miles out, two miles back, (insert water break), two miles out , two miles back. I toyed with the idea of changing it up — maybe doing 3 miles in the first segment and five in the second. Or vice versa. “No Amy,” I gently said to myself. “Easy day. Stick with the plan. There are plenty times when we need to change on the fly. This is not one of them.”
The run continued. I recalled a conversation with a woman who wanted to know when running got fun. When did it get easy? When did the runner’s high come? Truth is, I don’t know if I ever had a runner’s high. Truth is often even my easy days are a bit hard. I don’t run because it’s easy. I run because I like the challenge. I like to disconnect from the chatter in my head. I like to meet new people and other times I like to be alone. I like to have that physical feeling of accomplishment. I like to feel progress. I like to move. I like to be healthy. I like to feel inspired.
I run because once I thought I couldn’t. Not because I had some illness or other physical liability but because I thought it was too hard. Turns out I don’t have to be scared of the difficult stuff anymore. Turns out I can do the difficult stuff. Sometimes I can even excel at the difficult stuff. I run to remind myself that I’m stronger than I think I am.
Today is National Running Day. The official site of the event states that National Running Day is “the perfect way for longtime runners to reaffirm their love of running and for beginners to kick off a lifetime and life-changing commitment.” It doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles. Many areas have special group runs today. You’ll see people touting running on social media all day long. But that’s one of the beautiful things about running. You just need to show up. The running takes care of the rest.