Running is my drug

Student blogger Jamie Rodney was looking for a way to explain his love of running. Lucky for him, ancient Jewish scripture had his back

June 01, 2018 10:33

I've always thought there's something a little bit pretentious about writing about running, a sort of vibe that says "look at me; my hobbies are healthier than your hobbies." And sure, while the stuff about the natural high you get off of endorphins checks out scientifically, I feel like there's a pretty high overlap between people who say things like "running is my drug" and those that you would cross the street to avoid talking to.  

My issue is, however, that I love running as much as I hate hearing and reading other people talk about why they love running.  

That's perhaps not a surprise, because I sometimes feel like I enjoy running for the worst, pettiest, most arrogant reasons possible. Sure, I get the same endorphin kick as anyone else masochistic enough to put themselves through a couple of miles of pain for fun, but there are other motivations too. Much as I hate to admit it, I'm pretty vain about my physical appearance, and since I've not got a face so much as a shovel with ears, I need to get as many miles in as possible to compensate. It also doesn't help that I spent the first thirteen years of my life at a school where my lack of popularity coincided directly with my lack of interest and ability in sports. Somehow, becoming better at running seems like a repudiation of my lonely, adolescent self. Having people I know see me run fills me with a pleasing smugness. On the other hand, I remember once finishing a run, feeling pretty great, then checking Facebook, seeing a picture of a friend running (and looking much better than me while doing so) and my sense of self-worth evaporating.  

But there's another side to running as well, which makes me feel slightly less guilty about the whole thing.  Maimonides, one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time said that one “should engage one’s body and exert oneself in a sweat-producing task each morning”, and there's mention in The Talmud (more specifically, in Shabbat 82a), of exercise being a spiritual, rather than purely secular matter. The idea is that having a healthy body helps you to better perform mitzvot Intuitively, that makes sense to me, although that could just be the legacy of hearing my school PE teacher telling the class about how a healthy body makes a healthy mind every week for four years. (No idea if that's true, but it's an excellent excuse for procrastination.)  

But can I really claim such high-minded motivations for running? Well, yes and no. No, because I don't think I've ever thought about the Torah while trying to bump up my step counter; yes because, self-satisfied as some accounts of running might be, there might be something to them.   

In case it wasn't already clear enough, I don't exactly have my life together. My mental health could best be described as haphazard, and my coping mechanisms are worse. It might not work for everyone, but running has helped me put that in the past. I'm not saying running has brought me closer to God, but I'd be a much worse person if I didn't have the option to run myself into the ground (literally instead of metaphorically).         

You could almost say (and I don't think anyone's ever been enlightened enough to think of this before) that running... is my drug.  

Jamie Rodney is one of the JC's regular student bloggers for 2017-18. He is studying English at St Andrews University

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June 01, 2018 10:33

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