This month I achieved my personal best in the world of amateur running, I ran a distance of seventeen miles (27 km) and although I’m not quite sure when I will attempt this distance again, I’ll confess to feeling emotional after this run and even gave myself permission to allow a few stoic tears to fall from my tear ducts.
I started this insane habit over five years ago and on my first ever run I couldn’t comfortably complete one mile (1.6 km) I don’t know how many casual readers of this blog are runners? For those that are (or who are thinking about joining this club) I’m pretty sure there are a multitude of reasons why a person would willingly engage in this gruelling habit on a regular basis. There are the obvious benefits of improved stamina, weight control and strengthened bones; however I never anticipated that running would induce the most unique form of antidepressant I have ever experienced.
So let’s get some of the seductive science out of the way first…
Various sources throughout the vast digital space of the internet claim that running boosts the brains serotonin levels which help make you calmer or more relaxed. Little, excitable feel good endorphins are also produced for runners, which assists in an overall improved sense of well-being. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden discovered that running purges the blood of a substance known as kynurenine, which is believed to be linked to depression, not to mention a recent study revealed that running causes a similar neurochemical response to the brains reward pathways, that is also shared by drug addicts…which perhaps explains the term runners high.
There are no new revelations here and nothing you can’t dig up through Google (if you feel inclined to do so?) but what you can’t find on Google is the value running has on your very soul which is a transcendent experience that can’t be expressed through the limitations of language; it is only something that can be felt.
As a life long asthmatic, running is a struggle and surprisingly not something I’m always eager to partake in, but depression is very real and running does an indescribable something that gives me a broader sense of perspective that I just can’t get from any over the counter pharmaceutical drug or medical prescription issued by my doctor.
I am no way suggesting that running is a one size fits all, rainbow infused cure; I understand there are complexities to depression that running alone won’t solve. But for me performance is not the definitive indicator of success because once I put on my overworked, under appreciated running shoes there are still some surprising factors to consider…
Most of my runs require that I figure out how to overcome steep obstacles that present themselves when I least expect it. If I fail to complete a particular route I have to shoulder the impact of defeat and dig deep to find the courage to start again. I’m not guaranteed to make the journey’s end and it is the most exhausting task to undertake, especially on a lazy Sunday, but all I have to do is find my own internal rhythm and take it one step at a time.
And if that isn’t a metaphor for life I don’t know what is.
Until next time.