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Health and Wellness

Writing about running

To write about running or not to write about running: that is the question.

After an almost five year hiatus from running, I started back on March 21 of this year. I began running again after talking to my cousin Robbie who lives in Hong Kong now. Our mutual friend and cousin, Gary, had been hospitalized with COVID.

During our talk, Robbie mentioned how he had just gotten back from a long run up a mountainside done in response to Gary’s ongoing situation and to clear his head and try to get in a better place mentally.

I replied that for years I’d been saying I was going to get back into running — yet I never did — but that after we spoke I was going to lace up my running shoes and get out there.

Like him, I needed to get my headspace right because it was not in a good place at all. I made the promise to myself and held true to it — and I am grateful I didn’t find another excuse to not hit the pavement. Five hundred miles logged later, I figure it’s time I start writing about running — the most predominant activity in my life over the past five months.

I’m honestly not sure where I would be mentally after Gary’s sudden passing if I hadn’t re-introduced running back into my life. Not in a good place at all. I know that much. I can’t put into words how much I miss that guy. My entire life he had always been there for me, picking me up, oftentimes unknowingly, when I was going through a rough patch.

And now, he’s gone.

Even with running, every day seems an uphill battle as soon as I wake; running, at least, grants me a momentary reprieve while I’m out there and for a few hours once I’m done. Coincidentally, I’ve come to love the physical hills I run in my life. For what it’s worth, running seems to help the mental hills I now find myself climbing each morning, evening, and night, too.

Writing about running isn’t really about running all that much.

I’m reminded of the title of acclaimed novelist Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, as I write this.

For me, running is more about addressing my mental health than it is about improving my physical health. The physical health aspect is merely an added bonus.

I know everyone is not a runner. If they were, the trails and roads I hit throughout the week would be packed. Regardless of whether you are a runner or not, I hope some of the short essays I write on the topic are of interest. Perhaps they will inspire you to run yourself or maybe take a leisurely walk (I love walking as much as running). Because, again, when I write about running, it isn’t really about running all that much. Running is just the vehicle to talk about other things. More important things.

Here is a sneak peek of the draft essay topics soon to come:

Upcoming running essays

01. 24 hours of running

We all have 24 hours in a day. The days seem short. As soon as you wake, it’s almost time to go back to bed. It wasn’t until I logged 24 hours of running that I grasped how long 24 hours really is.

02. Mourning run

How running has helped me address my grief and not run away from it.

03. I started running and stopped drinking

I used to drink alcohol to numb my mental anguish or to increase momentary happiness. That was always a terrible idea. I just didn’t realize it until I was eight miles into a run one day.

04. How running in nature is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

There may not be lions and tigers where I live, but there are bears. But are they really waiting for you with a fork, knife, and a bib?

05. Running as a form of meditation

The way you judge the thoughts that swirl around in your head when you’re idle is vastly different when you are half out of breath while running.

06. Why I stopped running in the first place

Five years ago, I ran every single day. I averaged about 6-8 miles per run and 50-60 miles per week. I quit for two reasons.

07. Run through the discomfort

I don’t love to run. Running is often uncomfortable and requires more laundry and baths. But is discomfort always a bad thing?

Until next time

If you’ve read this far, then I hope to see you back once the first running post is published. As for me, I’m off to take a shower now. I just knocked out a 10.4 mile run and my knees have recovered enough where I can stand upright again under a water spigot.

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.

2 replies on “Writing about running”

Looking forward to reading about your running exploits. I’ve missed your writing over the past month but understand why. Best to you.

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