Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

spartan wanderer

Running is Everything

As we grow and change over the years, it’s hard to say if we’re even the same person as we were, say, 10 years ago. It’s one of those philosophical pickles that hurts your brain when you consider what is actually the true self, or if it even exists at all. However, each of us do have that anchor, that one constant throughout life that has always been there, from the version of yourself that used to wear classic rock T-shirts and play the guitar far too loudly to the self that puts on a button-down and works at the computer for several hours a day.

For me, that constant has been running.

Well, constant in that it has always been a part of my life. Constant in that I’ve been doing it daily since high school? Not so much. I decided to write about my relationship with running this week now that I’m at one of those points where I’m striving to make it a regular daily activity again. In typical fashion, I’ve waited until the average daytime temperature in Daqing, China has dropped down to around -7°C to reintroduce it back into my life.

In middle school, my track and field coach saw my tall, lanky frame as an obvious chunk of marble waiting to be molded into a long-distance runner. He put me on the mile, and I surprised myself. He was not. As someone who wasn’t particularly athletic until then, I saw it as something that was “my thing”. Something that I was particularly good at compared to the rest of my peers. It was one of the first things that helped me build confidence at a young age.

My middle school was, quite literally, just down the road from the high school. Coaches talk to each other. It wasn’t long into my freshman year before I found myself on the cross country team, running the trails throughout the woods adjacent to the high school. I learned some crucial lessons about running that first year. For example, you can’t eat cafeteria pizza a couple hours before running 3-5 miles and expect it to end well. Even if you think you’ve had enough water, you really haven’t, especially if it’s hovering under 100°F with 80% humidity outside. After you’ve stretched, stretch some more.

After that first year running cross country, I was in love with long-distance running. I was well-acquainted with the runner’s high, and it was something I looked forward to while sitting in class every day. I went from having potential to becoming a crucial part of our team, and that team was one of the things I loved so much about the sport. Our class of 2008 made some pretty big achievements throughout those four years, including making it to the state championships almost every year.

I didn’t join the cross country team when I moved to Boone for my four years at App State. I don’t know if I found the mountains too intimidating to run in competitively or if I was just looking for a break at the tail-end of those four years of very disciplined running. However, it’s not something I ever stopped doing. I ran off and on in college, even training for and completing my first marathon.

The years since, running has still remained a constant in my life, although I’m the first to admit my discipline is lacking from time to time. But if I am going to exercise, it’s going to be running. I’m not really a gym guy, and running, in my opinion, is the best way to maintain a baseline level of good fitness. At the very least, you get your recommended dose of cardio, which is what you should be doing if you’re doing anything at all. Putting those miles in yields returns. I have more energy throughout the day, I sleep well, and my brain just works better.

While I maintain that there’s no better physical exercise routine than getting outside and putting in a few miles, that’s not the only reason I do it. Even greater than staying physically fit, running is therapy for me, pure and simple. Whatever may be going on in my life, good or bad, running helps me to process these things. Daily life as a foreigner in China can be incredibly frustrating sometimes. But no matter how low I get on a Bad China Day, I can put on my running shoes and feel reassured that I’m going to be in a better place three miles later.

It’s usually around this time every year that my running tapers off as the weather goes south. It can be quite the struggle to motivate yourself to get out there when the mercury drops through the bottom of the thermometer up here in Northeast China. I’m writing this to remind myself how important running is to me, how much I get out of it, and why I should just put on my shoes first and worry about being cold once I’ve actually forced myself outside the door. Then I don’t have much of choice but to start running to stay warm.

Alright, I’m done rambling. I’m actually wearing my running gear as I write this, procrastinating. I’ve got a few miles between this chair and my favorite bowl of noodles, so it’s time I hit the pavement. See you out there!

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