Finding meaning in running when life gets weird

Plus: An open thread on how you're running through all this

“We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation ... we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Victor Frankl

I don’t know about y’all, but taking in the news and all the goings on in the market and the economy over the past week has gotten me a little stressed out.

Okay, a LOT stressed out!

It’s not necessarily that what we’ve been going through here is all that bad — as I told a co-worker of mine earlier this week, I’m actually enjoying not having to get in the rush of Atlanta traffic every day — but rather, it’s the implications of where this thing might be headed.

We have two children who are attending school at home this week, and will be for the foreseeable future. That means their teachers are sending lesson plans to us each night, which we’re expected to do with them during the day.

And we’re doing this while at the same time attending meetings for our jobs via conference call for several hours during the day, and trying to focus and pay attention on those calls. (Sometimes we’re succeeding, sometimes we’re not.)

We do catch ourselves laughing a lot with each other, just from the fact that we’re able to experience more alongside each other every day. But we’re also getting a little crankier with each other too, at times, now that we’re into day three of this. (Or, maybe I’m the one who’s been cranky! 😀)

I worry about my parents, and about my wife’s parents, all of whom are in their seventies or are just about turn 80. Their age places them squarely among the groups that are being hardest hit (that we know of) by this virus.

For a while, I hadn’t considered the possibility that me or someone I know and love might really be impacted. I’m just like everyone else — I don’t like to think about bad things happening to me or the people I love.

But, as the reality sets in, I’m realizing I need to face the reality of this moment, even when people I love may not yet see its full scope. My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary later this month, and we were all set to celebrate it with them and several other members of my family. Now, though, is it worth the risk?

This sounds like it’s not that big a problem, I know. I get it. But, as my mother shared with me a couple of weeks ago, this has been something she’s looked forward to for months — these connections, these times we celebrate together mean more to her than they ever have, especially as several of their friends have passed away in recent years.

Disappointing her — or my co-workers, or my manager, or my spouse, or my kids — is weighing on me right now. But also, I’m worrying about making sure we all get through this safe, in good health, and out the other side. (It’s a lot to think about!)

Yesterday, I went for a three-mile run around my neighborhood just to clear my head. To get out of the house, even if it was only for just over a half-hour.

It made me realize I was using running in a way I hadn’t in a while — it was relaxing me, calming me down; I wasn’t focused on my time, my pace, my number of miles anymore. I was exerting myself for its own sake, taking the world in and breathing it out again.

I’m going to need a lot more of that going forward over the next few weeks (months?) and I’d bet you all will as well. The focus of this newsletter will change as a result; we’ve brought you races we think you’ll love each week, but how can I recommend things like that right now?

What it will become exactly is still taking shape in my mind, but I can imagine a turn toward how running can help us get through this, and a way for us to stay connected. (The connections we’ve built over the past year via our discussions have been the part of doing this I’ve enjoyed the most, actually!)

‘Look forward to better things’

Earlier this week, I stumbled across a post by the blogger Maria Popova, in which she shared the thoughts of the first-century Roman philosopher Seneca on the things we worry about:

With an eye to the self-defeating and wearying human habit of bracing ourselves for imaginary disaster, Seneca counsels his young friend:

“What I advise you to do is, not to be unhappy before the crisis comes; since it may be that the dangers before which you paled as if they were threatening you, will never come upon you; they certainly have not yet come.

Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.”

This isn’t to encourage an outlook that is unrealistic, Seneca writes. On the contrary, it’s an encouragement to account for all that life brings us, good and bad.

That’s the spirit I’m going to (try to!) embrace as we all live through this time in our lives together. We’ll just keep running through it.

As always, let me know how things are in your world, and keep in touch.

Your friend,

— Terrell


Great running reads

Go Ahead. Run Outside. For as long as we still can in the United States, getting outside to go for a run — preferably by yourself, keeping plenty of distance from anyone you see — may be one of the best things we all can do for our physical and mental health right now. It’s hard to think of a better time to go for a trail run or a job out in the wilderness somewhere, especially if it’s easily accessible for you. Of course, you want to avoid overtraining or overdoing it in any way, as you breathe much more deeply than normal when you’re running, especially if you’re a fast runner.

“People shouldn’t avoid running outside,” says Dr. Joseph Vintez, an infectious disease expert at the Yale School of Medicine. 

Pandemics, Mass Gatherings, and the Challenges of Race Directors. I know so many of us have been incredibly disappointed to events we’ve had planned (in some cases, for months) get cancelled. And many of you are upset that races, in most cases, aren’t providing refunds for your registration fees. This excellent blog post by a race director who has seen what it’s like to organize and manage races from the inside offers a perspective I think we should all pay attention to. (If we all demand all our money back from a race at the same time, it’s like a run on a bank — there’s a good chance that race will never be run again.)

“There is no manual for this, and there is no manual for how races should handle a pandemic.”

So You’re Stuck Inside. Here’s What You Can Do to Keep Your Heart and Lungs in Shape. This, from an excellent newsletter I discovered only recently, offers some really useful suggestions for ways to use things you already have in your house — like stairs — to maintain your fitness while we all hunker down at home for a while. The exercises suggested are simple and take only 15-20 minutes, and offer a great way to add structure to your day and give you time away from screens.

“If you have a set of stairs in your house or apartment, you have a conditioning workout.”

Four Ways to Help Prevent Loneliness While You’re Social Distancing. I couldn’t agree more with what the writer of this great article says: “We’ve heard a lot about what not to do. Now it’s time to talk about what we can do.” If you have a family at home during this time we’re all going through, your home is likely a hive of activity right now, at least at times. But if you live alone and experience depression, anxiety or simply find yourself feeling bad or sad due to the lack of connection with friends, family and colleagues, reaching out is one of the best things you can do. (That also means reaching out proactively to friends and loved ones, to help stave off any depression they might experience.)

“Look, I wash my hands a lot,” says Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “But if that’s all people are told to do, it only takes you so far.”


A few songs to run to today

(I’m A) Road Runner” by Junior Walker & The All Stars.

My Sweet Lord” from the album All Things Must Pass by George Harrison.

I Think He Knows” from the album Lover by Taylor Swift.

Want to hear all the songs we include in our newsletter? Listen to our full playlist on Spotify here.


Open thread: Let’s discuss

How are you dealing with being asked to “shelter in place,” which is happening in some larger cities across the U.S., or with just staying home more? Is running helping you cope with it all, at least a bit?

If you had a race that was cancelled, are you finding virtual races to run? And, is all the extra time helping you maintain a better level of fitness and health? I’d love to know what your experience is like.

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Photo at top by Humphrey Muleba from Pexels.