"Why I Run"
A Runner's High
By Colleen Oakley
Running had always been my exercise of last resort. If I couldn't find a hiking pal or the gym was closed but I needed to ease the guilt of a pizza binge, I would reluctantly go for a jog. Even then, as before a trip to the dentist, I'd pray it would be over quickly and not hurt too much.
But everything changed when my husband lost his job last February. At first I went into cheerleader mode. "We'll be fine!" I assured him. "Everything happens for a reason. You'll get something better!" But two months slowly ticked by, our bank account dwindled, and my "Keep your head up" catchphrases began to ring hollow.
Then we decided I should cancel my boxing-gym membership. That stung. I loved it and was in the best shape of my life. But my husband hadn't received so much as a phone interview, and the bills were piling up. The gym would have to wait. I was officially down in the dumps. Two weeks without a workout passed, and I began feeling flabby and sluggish. I knew I had to do something, so I took a deep breath and laced up my running shoes.
I jogged two miles, loathing each strike on the asphalt. When I got home, sweaty and out of breath, everything was how I'd left it -- my husband was jobless, my bed was unmade, and our bank account was near zero -- but my attitude had experienced an almost imperceptible shift. I felt an urge to tidy the sheets. I called a friend to chat. All in all, our circumstances didn't seem quite so dire.
The next day I ran again, still slowly, still struggling, but this time more appreciative of the way I felt when I was done. Over the next three months, running became my own form of Prozac. I hit the pavement three or four days a week, rarely exceeding three miles. Those jogs didn't give my husband a job, but they helped me keep it together and stay positive until a company did offer him a position five months later. Running is no longer my last resort; now it's my drug of choice.
Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2010.
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