Itís a Runnerís Thing

Erin Gesell


The drumming of my feet is therapeutic. Heel, toe, heel, toe, left, right. My rhythmic breath and the stretch of my muscles as I test my stride and speed is heaven sometimes. When I am stressed I need it. The adrenaline is my addiction. The pain in my legs, the burn in my chest soothes my troubled brain. The more stress—the farther, faster I go.


They ask me why I would do that to my body. Why would I ever want to run that far!? Am I crazy?! No. I love it. It’s what they call runner’s high—a state of euphoria while running. It’s accomplishment. Tests, death, sucky boyfriends, school decisions, stories that just won't end themselves, crappy fathers and more have all been pounded into miles of concrete.


 Running gives you a community, a group. You pass them on the trails, you see them in races. Millions of people with one common love—you won’t find many other hobbies with that many devoted followers. I feel there are really only two kinds of people. Those of us who need to run, whether we love it or hate it, and those who don't need to. There's some kind of innate desire, craving, necessity that only running can cure.


I think of my goals, my hopes and dreams, my to-do lists and solutions to my life problems while running. I push myself to the limit, but I never want to push myself so far that running isn’t fun anymore. When I want to quit, I guilt myself into running farther, reaching my goal. Seriously? Don’t give up now, girl. Your mother didn’t raise you to be a quitter. What would Kyle think? No, wonder you can’t finish that essay if you can’t even finish this ten mile run. Don’t stop, you can do it.

       

Running has brought back together my father and me. When I was a child he was my hero, my best friend. We played make-believe, and he fueled my love of sports by always making time to play with me. He taught me how to count when we went on walks at night around our neighborhood watching bats swirling in the sky, me riding on his shoulders, and he would say, “I love you.” “I love you too,” I’d reply. “I love you three.” “I love you four.” I always forgot sixteen. He was the best dad in the world.


 When I entered sixth grade, my dad changed. He had problems with the people he worked with at the fire station. He came home grumpy and complaining. He fought with my mom, and, as I inherited his temper, he and I were constantly at each other’s throats. I grew to love the nights when my dad stayed at the fire station—nights I had previously feared. I was joyous when my parents finally divorced.

       

After the divorce I saw my dad once a week when he would take my brother and I out to eat. He never took us on the weekends like the other kids I knew whose parents were divorced. He missed most of my high school career—volleyball games, soccer games and award ceremonies. My first year of college he never even saw my dorm room. This person wasn’t my dad. My dad loved me and was invested in my life. This man was a stranger. Until I started running.

 

After high school I needed to do something to stay in shape so I took up running. My dad had been a runner for most of his adult life and even now at 50 he tries to do a different half marathon every year in addition to the ones close to home. The first race he pitched to me was a ten miler in Lincoln. I hadn’t ran competitively since seventh grade track, and I was then a sophomore in college.

     

Additionally, prior to that race the farthest I had ever ran consecutively was six miles. I trained hard and texted or called my dad every day with my progress. All the anger and frustration I had been feeling with him melted away now that we had something to talk about and something for him to be proud of me about. We could relate to each other again and communicate without yelling.


The day of the race he pinned on my number and we got in line. We didn’t run together—he beat me by a minute and a half (the last and only time he has beaten me). After he finished he turned around and ran my last minute with me. He raced me and pushed me to sprint to the finish and do my best. He was my dad again. For once I felt like I wasn’t running because of my dad but with him and for him.

     

Running is my stress-reducer, the cause to my peace of mind, my exercise, my planning period and now my link to my long-lost dad. I’m not crazy. I am just one of those running people.