Running into my best self

Consider this my formal love letter to running. So if you’re not running, stop reading. Just kidding, please keep reading. Like please. Don’t stop reading.

Lila Baltaxe | Senior Graphic Artist

Let me set the scene for you: I am woken up by the sound of faint chirping from the birds outside my Bay State window. The light filters in through the trees with thin rays filling up the room from every direction. It’s a brisk 50 degrees outside, and my heavy eyes flutter open. I sit up a little straighter, and think of how I want to start my day. 

I ponder for a few more seconds when a smile begins to form on my face. I decide to go on a run. 

Now, let’s pump the brakes here. People who grew up running or playing a specific sport that necessitates running would usually be more inclined to start their early Saturday morning with a light 3-mile run. 

But that’s not me. Sure, I did about two years of elementary track and was a cheerleader for a large chunk in my life, but the most running I did during this time was through short sprints or the punishing laps that my coach would have my team do when we talked in between stunts or if one of our flyers hit the ground. 

Nonetheless, here I was, sometime later. Longing, itching and yearning for a run. 

I sprouted from bed and got myself ready for a jog. I laced up my Hokas, started my Apple Watch and downloaded my guided run from the Nike Run Club app. 

Then, I was off.

The rhythmic tap of my feet hitting the concrete lane of the Charles River Esplanade and the breeze flowing from over the river onto my face made for perfect running conditions. I ask myself, how did I get here? 

I guess if I’m really trying to pinpoint when I discovered refuge in running, I would say that it started around last December. 

Some of my friends decided that they were going to run a 5k in Seaport on a Saturday morning, and suckered me into joining them. I had never run more than two miles without stopping to walk before, so I knew that this would be an interesting experiment, to say the least. 

On the day of the race, my friends and I arrived at the consensus that we would alternate between walking and running, and based on the subject of this article, I think it would be safe to conclude that we did a lot of running. 

To my surprise, I kind of loved it.

I decided that after I got back from winter break, I would start running more frequently, except I never really knew how to run properly in the first place. I understood the concept of pacing, but I could never really figure out what my paces should be. Thankfully, I didn’t have to — queue the Nike Run Club app. 

This versatile app was just the thing that I never knew I needed. It offers a wide range of different guided routes and training tips, and is useful to anyone who is a beginning runner to a seasoned marathon runner. 

I started with the basic guided runs such as the “First Run,” “Next Run,” and “First Speed Run.” After each completed level, I snapped a quick picture to commemorate the beginning of my journey. Now, looking back four months later, every picture oozes with a sense of satisfaction and pure happiness. 

I’ve begun to realize that my attitude towards running has drastically changed. During quarantine, I fell victim to the agonizing Chloe Ting workout challenges, which I would begrudge myself to do after running around the steep, hilly half-mile loop in my neighborhood. 

Flash forward to now, and that feeling of resentment towards running was replaced with exhilaration. I felt like I was becoming not only a better runner, but oddly enough, a better person with each run. 

I say this because my runs were a dedicated time to decompress. I didn’t have to think about the three assignments due at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, and I didn’t have to think about the internships that I have yet to apply to. 

I could simply listen to my favorite music — currently obsessing over Olivia Rodrigo’s “GUTS” album, but what’s new — and think of all the things that I’m thankful for in my life.  

I didn’t feel nearly as overwhelmed as I used to because I had dedicated time to stop ruminating about all of the unchecked boxes on my to-do list. So, while running isn’t directly helping me get my assignments done, it’s become a sort of release that I didn’t know that I needed. 

Running on the esplanade that overlooks the river is a personal favorite loop, but each run still points out something different to observe in the environment around me. It makes the city feel less city-like, which is never a bad thing in my book. 

While my times are nothing close to fast, I’m completing every run to the best of my ability — and that’s enough reward in itself. I’m running farther than I ever have and I’m loving every single second of it. Okay, maybe not every single second because of the whole “getting tired thing,” but you get my point. 

It’s a bit difficult to articulate what this newfound love for running really means to me because it means so much in different forms — it’s exercise, a way to get outside and, most importantly, it’s an escape. 

So, if you’re anything like me, or nothing like me at all, try going on a run during the next sunny day. You might just run into your best self.

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