Some people take xannies for their anxiety. Some turn to drinking. For myself, and many others, running is the medication of choice. Starting my day by running 2-3 miles is more than a hobby: it’s a sacred ritual.
I began running in June 2012, as a way to lose weight. I clearly remember the first time I went out. With chest heaving, arms awkwardly pumping, I made my way about half a mile down the road and back another half mile. I hadn’t been able to run a mile since middle school and was determined to return to that physical condition, even top it. I wasn’t able to run the entire route that first time, and it took about two weeks of daily practice for me to be able to, but it was SO worth it. I remember the feeling of accomplishment as I burst into my house yelling, “MOM I RAN THE WHOLE THING!”
Throughout that summer I continued running daily, with a rest day maybe once a week. This ritual started to become close to my heart; I saw progress with every mile run and every pound lost. A sense of pride unlike any I’d ever felt washed over me. For once in my life, I was committed to something. Even though there were some days when I was totally not feeling it, I ran anyway and always felt better afterward. I noticed that I became less worried about my self image. I walked with more pride, and interestingly enough, I became less phased when I made mistakes in everyday life.
Since then, I have continued my running ritual and dropped all the weight I wanted to lose. I can proudly say I’m in the best physical shape of my life, and I have running (as well as a healthy plant-based diet) to thank. But even after I achieved my fitness goal, I was still attached to running. And now, when I don’t run in the morning, I feel empty. It’s as if something’s missing. I’ve jokingly said that running is my boyfriend because I’m so in love with it. This ritual has done more than help me lose weight- it’s given me a sense of identity and comfort.
I continue my morning ritual no matter where I am, This includes at school in Philly, on vacation in the Finger Lakes, with family on the beaches of Texas, and now London as I’m studying abroad this semester. Upon finding out that my new roommate here is also a runner the night we got here, we went for a run the next first morning through King’s Cross at rush hour. What an experience! Dodging commuters on the crowded London streets was nothing short of exhilarating, and it was the best way to bond with my new friend. Since then, we’ve been to Regent’s Park, down embankment, and even to Big Ben. Running has been the biggest source of comfort while adjusting to life here. It’s a religious experience, much like going to a church service. And the best part is that my roommate and I are not alone in our practice. Every day, we see dozens of other runners in our area. While passing one of my comrades, I’ll often shoot them a smile, a nod, or a thumbs-up. There’s a feeling of solidarity that comes with knowing that we’re sharing a similar experience; a feeling of connection on a completely new level. I don’t know anything about this person other than the fact that she’s running right now, yet that in itself is sufficient.
It’s incredible how a constructive ritual like this can become such an important part of one’s life. It takes root deep inside you and flourishes more and more each time it’s practiced. Whether it be drawing, running, going to church, or simply drinking tea every night before bed, daily rituals are an integral part of the human condition. They deserve to be celebrated.