The Student Voice of MU Since 1955
Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Column: Let’s run toward something, not away from it

College is about running down a new path.

Nate Atkins

Feb. 26, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

I wish I were writing to you while running. That’s the only way this can really work.

There’s just no simulating the euphoria that surges through your body in the moment when you realize you can do this. If I could replicate it, I probably wouldn’t be in the MU Student Recreation Complex right now, desperate to reclaim that sense of inner peace.

But, of course, I can’t write while I run. That’s what’s great about it. As your legs are moving five times the speed they do at any other point in the day, you begin to fly away from the monotony of everyday life.

Right here, right now, hordes of MU students are doing exactly that. They’re putting blog posts on pause and letting calls from their significant others hit voicemail.

Running allows something more existential to take center stage of your life. You’re up on the track or the treadmill, or on a wooded path or a field in the country. The paths can change as you do. The fence posts and mile markers flash by. You see yourself going places.

You like that concept. It’s the reason you’re here at college trying to find a new path.

When you’re running, all you can think about is life and its possibilities. The worries haven’t left you, but for some reason, they feel like tiny minions trying to break down your impenetrable dam.

You feel the wind rushing past. You feel the tingles climbing up. And you feel the pain.

Man, you live for that pain.

It stings as you gasp for breath, but each inhale and exhale expands your physical circumference of life. You start to realize why we were made this way, in these bodies. We were made to push the limits. Doing so wears you out, but the next time you step on the field, you can go further and it feels easier. You become more daring, you run farther, and the cycle continues.

I couldn’t have written this before I came back for my final semester. I wouldn’t have believed any of it.

I decided to pick up running because I felt like I needed to get in better shape. I thought of football practices in the sweltering August heat, and I just hoped it wouldn’t take too long.

I wanted to survive this process, just as I wanted to survive those all-nighter essays and two-hour magazine editing labs. Life might feel easier when you try to plunge through the darkness and emerge to find a white light, but I’m done trying to hide from my fears.

After all, I’ve spent fewer hours at this university studying than I have tossing around Olympic-style weights and making my shins bleed in the weight room. People have asked me why I would do such a crazy thing. All along, it was like a non-runner looking at someone flying through life and failing to understand the euphoria. I had fallen in love with something I couldn’t explain.

I recently asked a friend who is an avid runner if he’d like to try a marathon some day. He said he would, just to be able to say he did it. So I posed the idea: If that’s the only reason, can’t you just tell people you did it anyway?

And just as the words came out, I knew. I knew why something as painful and unconnected to our lives was an obsession so many can’t live without.

We don’t push our limits in something as wild as this just to tell other people about what we can do.

We do it to tell ourselves.

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