One of my favorite running moments from the past year: climbing Alligator Hill in Leelanau County with my friend Lisa. This view was our reward.
One of my favorite running moments from the past year: climbing Alligator Hill on Leelanau Peninsula with my friend Lisa. This view of Lake Michigan was our reward.

“Oh, wow, it is so pretty outside!”

This is the second, maybe third, time I’ve said this aloud as the five of us run (trudge) through the sand-like snow covering downtown streets while big, fat flakes fall from the early-morning sky. The words slip from my mouth before I can stop them, I’m just that in awe of how beautiful it is, how winter wonderland-ish it is this mid-December morning.

I wonder if I’m annoying my running partners. It’s not like this is out-of-the-ordinary weather for us here in northern Michigan. I’m not a transplant, either—I’ve grown up with ice and blizzards and enormous snowbanks and snowdrifts. This is winter. I know this.

Maybe this is just a symptom of age. Older, wiser, mature people talk about the weather all the time, right? And it is my birthday today, actually. I am now just one year shy of 4-0. Is this my future? Monitoring the weather and talking endlessly about it, especially when it’s particularly picturesque?

Or maybe this is just a runner thing. An endurance lifestyle-devotee thing.

A gulp of cold air and the way it surprises you with its strength. A north wind that whips your face, stinging your eyes and triggering tears and a rosy, runny nose.  A slice of sunshine piercing bare branches and pooling on the road in front of you. These are among the things I notice like never before. I’m hyper aware, even (especially?) as I huff up a hill, of everything around me and how it affects my body, my mind, my entire being.

Becoming a runner means seeing and feeling life as though a switch has been flipped and you can’t imagine going back to how things were before. It’s like the euphoria you experience after waking up feeling better, finally, following a week of being stuck in bed with the flu. Boy, did I ever feel awful! It’s so wonderful feeling good again! I don’t want to ever be that sick again!

My life wasn’t terrible or unfulfilling as a non-runner, of course. I’ve had many, many moments of joy and absolute contentedness similar to those I feel as a runner. But I think I can say my life wasn’t as full, as ripe and as juicy and as delicious.

Or maybe it was, and I just couldn’t see it. I didn’t recognize things and people and feelings and moments in the same ways. I think we all start out being open and honest—think about how we are as kids—and things happen and close us up some and we choose to hide parts of ourselves.

I notice that our youngest child in particular, at age 8, is wide, wide open, and I love this about him. He takes notice of what’s going on around him and shares so freely. Sometimes I admit it can be too much—we’ve had plenty of talks about to who and when and where it’s appropriate to talk about certain things—but I also love that he has the bravery and curiosity to put things out there. I think running has helped me circle back around to this child-like behavior. As my senses have heightened, so has my willingness to be me. To feel confident of who I am and being that person all of the time, not only with those I trust most. Running revealed so much to me, and in turn I’m open to reveal more of myself to the world.

It’s a vulnerable way to live, to put yourself out there day after day, exposing yourself to the elements and to people and to a life that isn’t always so kind in return. It’s not the easy way to live, and there are definitely times when it can seem too much, too much alive-ness. Yet I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Just as our muscles are strengthened by miles logged, so are our souls by the real-ness and authenticity and love and kindness we offer. And I’ll take a stronger body, heart and mind any day of the week, so this work of being me, of being the best version of myself, is worth it.

Celebrating running, friendship and birthdays after our wintry run this past weekend.
Celebrating running, friendship and birthdays after our wintry run this past weekend.

This 6-mile snow globe run with my sole sisters—clearly another of those moments when I feel truly alive—reminds me for the thousandth time of what running brings to my life: the blessings of incredible people in my life and the knowing and appreciating of beauty that is all around, no matter the weather.

Here’s to another year of living, feeling, experiencing life. How has running changed you and your approach to life?

 

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2 Responses to “Eyes (and Heart) Wide Open: the Gift of Running”

  1. Oh my! I could’ve totally written this, if only I had your eloquence with words. I was, in fact, just mentioning similar feelings to my husband last weekend. It’s interesting, the heightened awareness running brings, to the beauty that surrounds us. Happy, happy Birthday. Thank you for sharing your gift of words with us.

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