Running Away From Current Events

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.ย  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?

I'm a freelancer writing from the beaches of southern Spain, where I'm also training to run a 1:50 half marathon. I can relate anything back to running, and you bet I write about it. These topics include Nicki Minaj, astrology, and the 2016 presidential election.

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6 comments

  1. Yes, absolutely! That is one of the reasons that I’ve been prioritizing outside running these days, even though the pull to the treadmill during the cold weather is real. Fresh air and interacting with active people is so important. My feed has gotten pretty dark and it can start to feel oppressive. I am a politically engaged person, but I am also beginning to recognize that this is going to be a long game and I’ll need my energy and motivation to get through it. Running gives me that for sure. Happy running!

  2. Great post! After a recent trail run, I got back into my car and NPR came on the radio talking about something or other, and I realized, “Wow, for just a moment I forgot that blah, blah, blah….” It was such a strange feeling, and I’m so grateful to have running to help me stay calm.

  3. I’m so glad you have a running buddy over there to help you escape the madness, and simply to make the miles more friendly than running solo all the time!

    Given my current situation, running isn’t my outlet for the political state of things…but my pregnancy is. There are times that I allow myself to read the articles, the banter, and the political BS- and fall into black holes…then there are other times where I purposely go sort baby clothes, or research names, or do something that helps me feel more at ease with pregnancy and life in general. I do think though, if I was training for a race, or simply just running more- it definitely would be my outlet given everything else going on….we cannot be 100% covered in politics all the time- I simply don’t think it’s healthy.

    It’s an odd time-because I have had a stranger already ask me how I feel about bringing my kid into this world given the current state. The way I see it- yes it will be tough for some things but my god the world needs more little ones that are raised to be good humans, treat others with respect, and also…baby spam on social media can be a good way to drown out the political noise at times!

    1. That is a weird spot for you to be in, and I totally get where you’re coming from as a woman who wants to have children within the next decade. I agree! We need a new generation of good little humans. :) I’m so glad that your pregnancy is replacing running as an outlet, and I can’t wait to see the joy baby Barley brings to the world!

  4. Hi! Yes, yes it does. Although I often do still listen to political podcasts while I run. It’s so overwhelming and easy to forget that self-care is important. Running definitely lessens my anxiety! Thanks for sharing. I am encouraged by how many people are sharing how they are coping or talking about how not normal this all is in such a diverse array of outlets. It helps not to feel alone.