Running may be bad for your knees, but it's good for the soul
To me, running is liberation.
There are other forms of exercise that are likely 'better' for you. Swimming, weightlifting, boxing. All offer a better, more rounded workout, though I'm not enough of an expert on any of them to say for sure.
But for me, running does one thing that transcends exercise. It makes me unstoppable.
Okay, not unstoppable. Running does not give me the power to crash through solid concrete, or part the sea of commuters pouring out of the station. When I run, I feel unstoppable. When I run I have only one goal, to get there, and nothing can stop me from reaching that goal.
Running is the most freeing thing I can think of. I am my only limitation. All I need are a good pair of shoes, a bottle of water and the will to step out and close the door behind me. It's me against the pavement, me against the elements, and the harsher the weather, the better.
Pushing up the hill to my house in the howling wind and pissing rain is a feeling like no other. Matched only by the turning of the key, the closing of the door, and the knowledge that I did it.
Studies show that there is a positive link between exercise and mental health, but I can only tell you what I know, what works for me. When I run, there is only one thing on my mind, and that is a blessing.
Everything that makes me worried, that makes me scared, that makes me sad. It all tangles into a mess that I can't unpick. It blankets my thoughts, distracts me from my day and keeps me up at night.
When I run, all is swept aside. The weight lifts, and only the goal remains. All that matters is getting there. I can return to the tangle with a new perspective and confidence, earned out there on the streets.
As I run, every obstacle is a challenge that I have no fear in facing. The stitch in my side, the steepest incline. The flotsam and jetsam that scatter the streets of the city. Even the bimbling slow-walkers who make it their mission to slow me down.
Everything is an opportunity to push myself. Everything can be beaten. A treadmill delivers the same results, but it occupies a different mental space. It's warm, safe, sheltered from the elements. There's no danger, no thrill.
'Thrill' is the wrong word. Running is boring. It's boring having sore legs for an hour. It's boring coursing through the same old streets.
You can put on a podcast or some music, if you like. It will be drowned out by the inevitable voice in your head, begging you, "Can we stop now? Can we stop now?" Boredom is as much of an obstacle as pain or pedestrians. Use it. Push against it. Defeat it.
Maybe running is bad for your knees, though the jury is out on whether that's actually the case. In any case, I don't intend to run until my knees turn to dust.
For me, running isn't so much about fitness, though it is nice to think that I'm staving off death for a little while. It's about freedom. The freedom of movement, the freedom of the outdoors, the freedom from my thoughts.
It's me, and out there, and only the miles between us.