Do you guys have friends who are super into running? I have like six hundred.
They talk about running like it’s a kind of therapy or drug high. They say things like “my mind goes blank” or “the pain is just mental.” Running is about “pushing limits.” “Transcending” the “Possible” into the “unknown of human potential.”
I too would love to transcend mundanity with just my legs and a sports bra. But it doesn’t happen for me. No matter how much I run, I always feel like a brick with legs.
And yet, I continue to do it with a certain regularity. Why? Because running is convenient. For one, it’s cheap – unlike yoga classes or gym memberships, running only requires the amount of money you invest in a pair of shoes. For two, it’s on your own schedule. You can do it on a moment’s notice, for as little or as long as you like.
And so, I run. I never run far and I never run fast and actually, when I am “on a run” I spend about half of my time walking. Last week I “ran” in this place called Holmby Park, where I was consistently lapped by the elderly and the infirm. Holmby is a quiet park full of leafy trees, bright flowers, and cute babies. Every few yards there’s a bench where you can sit and contemplate all the trees and babies. Everything is bathed in perfect Southern California light.
As I slogged along, watching all the trees and babies and families strolling around in their Shabbat finest, I felt pretty warm and fuzzy. It dawned on me: even though I hate running, it’s a constant in my life. I never run with regularity – sometimes I’ll go a month without hitting the asphalt – but eventually I will run again. Or “run,” anyway.
Case in point: I’ve been bouncing from apartment to apartment since I got to LA six months ago. But every place I’ve stayed, I’ve made sure to run at least once a week to exercise and explore the neighborhood.
In this way, running has been my only constant throughout some very trying months. I like this irony; that in my instability I have felt most stable while moving. Running has been a way to chart what’s happened in my life. Each time I run, I enter that space again and remember.
I stayed two months in Chinatown and ran up the hill behind Dodger Stadium, running because I was angry; running because I was panicked. I ran because I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing in Chinatown, in Los Angeles, in my relationship, in my life. I tried running into Downtown LA, but there were too many stoplights and everything smelled like urine.
I lived for a few months in Silver Lake and took some emotional runs along Sunset Boulevard listening to Tove Lo’s “Habits” so I could think about my ex-lovers. I ran because my room was small and claustrophobic and I couldn’t stand to be inside.
I stayed in in Beverly Hills for a month and went on runs next to huge houses and avoided getting mauled by speeding Range Rovers. I ran because I was worried I might be getting fat and because I didn’t have anything else to do.
I think about other runs I’ve taken in other places I’ve lived and visited.
I ran along the levees in New Orleans and down Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. I ran on the beach in Santa Cruz. I ran in Athens, Georgia, after a rainstorm in the middle of June – it was like running in a humidifier with cotton balls stuffed down my throat.
I ran in Hyderabad a few times – these molasses-paced jogs along the street outside the International Student Hostel in the evenings. There was a temporary camp set up outside a construction site where the workers and their families lived – this crumbling grid of blue tarps, cheap tin, and barefoot kids. I looped past it, hyperaware of myself – an American white girl just exercising to keep her figure.
It’s easier to interact with unknown geography if I am moving in this same, repetitive way. My running becomes it’s own space: running-space, a familiar cocoon set apart from the city or the beach or industrial zone or wherever it is that I am.
Three days ago – the day after New Years – I moved into a different apartment. This one is beautiful, quiet, and clean.
I’m sleeping on an air mattress and I don’t own any furniture, but I don’t care. I’m about to take my first run in my new neighborhood. And when I come back I’m going to unpack. I have a good feeling about it.
About unpacking, not the run. The run is going to suck.