Read on how to enrich your life by purpose, i.e. to find depth and, a reason to get out of bed each morning, your own Ikigai.
At a low in this author’s life, she found the healing power of running, and the high that can be got from such a simple thing that taps into inner strength.
In the midst of 2011, I had a sudden crisis in life. I was feeling empty but did not understand the reason. I spent days thinking about what was going wrong in my life. It was possibly a quarter-life crisis.
I thought I was healthy but I was not; physically and mentally. My sedentary work routine with tons of coffee during the day had taken a toll on me. Adding to that my passionate love for scotch was at an all time high, leading to drowsiness and lethargy. This was showing up in my mental health as well. I used to feel empty without any reason.
Months passed by in this state and I added a good ten kilos of fat on my body. I used to often delve into my past and wonder what was it, that made me happy as a child. The answer was outdoor sports. I remember how much I hated rainy evenings as a child because it would spoil all the fun of playing outdoors with friends during the evening hours.
As they say, when you don’t know what to do, take the next possible step. For me the next possible step was to make myself more mobile. I started with brisk walking, which in few months’ time escalated to jogging. For a couch potato like me, it was very tough to start but I would always add baby steps to what I was doing.
The universe also conspired, and I happened to reconnect with an old friend who was in the same state of emptiness, hollowness and depression I was in. We decided to run long-distance together on Sundays. This got me into a routine and a fitness discipline. It is always advisable to have a partner for long distances because if you give up, the partner pushes you to cover that extra mile.
Our first feat together was a 10 kilometre run for breast cancer awareness. We met some incredibly beautiful women that day. We met someone who was there to run for breast cancer awareness with a pacemaker on. There was someone suffering from breast cancer who postponed her surgery by a day to run for this event. It was a personal victory for both of us as we have personally known some women who have lost their loves to this monster. Listening to what these women had to say was an eye opener, and realization dawned that we needed to nurture our health.
It has been good four years from the time I started taking care of my physical and mental health, and long distance runs have brought a renaissance in my life. I can easy divide my life into a pre-running and post running phase. I have realized that come what may, this is one activity which will take me out of any trouble I am in life. Running is my religion and a ritual which I will always stick to.
Some routine benefits of running include getting into good body shape, building stamina of the heart, and fighting depression. Running releases endorphin, a happiness hormone, which makes you feel as if you are on the top of the world. You get a runner’s high, very similar to other toxic ‘highs’ for which you pay a huge cost. Personally tried and tested, it has been the best cure for heart aches.
So avoid getting into rebound relationships after heartaches but run. It will pay off better. Economically, it is the most inexpensive sport you can pick up. No expensive gears or god gifted skills required. You just get up and start. We all have that basic animal instinct lying dormant in us.
Over the years I have realized that it is my guardian angel which is here to stay with me. I remember the time when running a mile blew off my lungs completely. It was then that a couch potato like me learnt that I have lungs too. Till that time, I just thought I only have taste buds on my tongue.
Running that first mile is still as difficult as it was then. However once the inertia of motion sets in, the next couple of miles are nothing less than ecstasy. When I get completely exhausted and my legs give up, I still crawl another mile with my mind. At the end–line my mind is in a state of emptiness, an inexplicable peace and some sort of a union with my higher consciousness.
It is for this meditative feeling that I run half marathons. I experience these stages every time I tighten my shoe laces for long distances. In the beginning, it feels like a competition with people shoving you sometimes to walk ahead of you and to reassure themselves that they are ahead of you. It is in the middle of the race that you meet some people who encourage you who are competing, but with themselves. The ones who wanted to beat you in the beginning are seen nowhere.
It is this middle phase that I enjoy the most. It appears like a collaborative movement towards a goal yet everyone is competing with their personal selves, aspiring to reach their best versions during the journey. Towards the end, you see faces exhausted, some crawling, others walking briskly and some indomitable spirits thumping the ground with same grace as they did in the first few kilometres. I crawl always. It is at this stage that my physical self has given my best shot and has given up. It is my mind now which takes me ahead. At the end–line it is ecstasy that is rather orgasmic! A metamorphosis has happened and I have conquered myself. I am new again. This is why I endure that pain for 21.096 kilometers.
Running teaches you to reach the last limit of your potential. It brings out the grit in you. The shooting pain in my legs does not stop me. When my legs give up, I converse with them with my heart and mind. Sometimes, I bribe them too. I tell them that I will take you for a nice foot spa if you do that one extra mile. To my surprise, they have listened to me every single time and I have kept my promise always.
It makes me realize how much I am capable of and how much I have undervalued myself. The pain in every muscle and bone makes me realize that there are so many unused resources in my body which I have not been even aware about. It is time to befriend these dormant resources which lie within you. This pain is beautiful because you realize there is so much life in your body,
Running long distances has made me realize that I have to give my best shot to everything I do in the present. The future will follow the present deeds. I know that ten years down the line possibly my muscles would learn more slowly than they learn today, so give everyday your best shot. Be it running or living.
Image source: shutterstock
Priya Tripathi identifies herself as a feminist, bibliophile, survivor and a runner. She believes her
Wonderful Priya – As someone who is currently in your ‘before’ phase, I can’t wait to live through your journey and reach the ‘after’ one. Kudos and more power to you.
wish you luck and for some inspiration you can read the following authors:
1. What I talk when I talk about Running by Haruki Murakami.
2. Miles to go before I sleep by Sumedha Mahajan.
All the best!
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