I turn on the TV, and I see political chaos. I open up Facebook, and I see an outpouring of bad news and an excess of opinions. Twitter, don’t even bother. Political posts are even riddled throughout my Instagram feed. Don’t get me wrong. I am totally one of those people. My social media posts are equal parts cat photos, running shots and political satire. I’m also proud of my friends who spread awareness of injustice in any way they can. However, it does get heavy.
I’m training for a spring goal race, running on fatigued legs day after day. But nothing weighs as heavily on me as the current state of the world. In comparison to the burden on my shoulders, my legs feel weightless.
I’m in a unique situation living in Europe. I see what is happening in my country from afar, and it hurts even worse. I feel helpless and in a way, unpatriotic. But I did my civic duty. I voted from here. I write to my senators from here. In fact, I’m probably more politically active from across an ocean than many people in the States right now. I’m not ignoring the situation, but the distance makes it scarier in a way. I have a feeling that if I were in Ohio right now, I would make like Forrest Gump and run across the nation. Or at least to the nearest airport, get on a plane, never to return. Everywhere I look there is bad news, hypocrisy, and ignorance. Except one place.
I finally made a running buddy here in Europe. A young, like-minded German woman. We scheduled our first run together. An easy evening run by the water. We chatted the entire time. About our childhoods, our studies, and even our running shoes. Until I reached the top of the stairs leading to my apartment, I had temporarily forgotten my sense of impending doom that I’ve had since November 8. I mean it too. I had literally forgotten. Those miles I log by the beach every day are mindless. They are even more therapeutic with a buddy. I was keeping track of distance and pace plus holding our conversation. The combination made me focus a little extra than just running by myself.
Besides chatting with a buddy, there are so many times I finish my runs thinking of how happy they make me, even for only an hour. Seeing the sun set and the incredible colors painted across the sky. Seeing an overly excited pup going on his first run with his owner. Hooking onto the back of a pack of high school boys and hanging on while I finish my last speed interval. There are so many aspects of running that make me happy, grateful and exhilarated. There are so many sights I never would have seen without running. There are so many ideas and epiphanies I never would have had without running.
Running normalizes my life in a way nothing else does. No matter the headline, my running shoes are still by the door. Everything else may seem trivial and irrelevant, but I can go out and escape for an hour or so. More importantly, the normalization of running in my life helps me to realize that it’s okay to forget what’s going on in the world for an hour or so. I want to be an informed, active citizen, but I also want to be a sane one. I don’t think it’s possible to achieve that if I carry this burden on my shoulders every day without putting it down for a rest every once in awhile. In life, just like in running, we need rest days.
Running, as we know, is the greatest metaphor for life. Similarly to how we taper leading up to our marathons, sometimes we have to decrease our political burdens so we can fight for what really matters. Unplug, log off, and suit up. Go to the treadmill or into the great outdoors and take a break from the rest of the world. You deserve a break.
Does running help you cope when politics and world events get you down?