Until I Run

April 8, 2021

In his 2013 memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk Running, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami wrote a short sentence that I relate to, now more than ever:

“I run; therefore I am.”

We're a year into the pandemic. I’m not the only one who feels it, the days blending into each other. Work, eat, sleep, all under the same roof—sometimes all from the same couch.

Anxiety and depression are on the rise. A research survey by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the University of British Columbia found that the number of Canadians having suicidal thoughts has quadrupled during the pandemic. Numerous other studies have raised concerns about the toll of the outbreak.

It’s also been tough for people to get the help they need. Many say that they’re withering away on waitlists. Others struggle to find affordable options. Providers, who were already in short supply, are stretched beyond capacity.

I get it. I’m struggling. To be honest, it feels, some days, like I don’t exist.

That is, until I run.

I don’t run from the news, or from the pandemic; I run into it. The worry, stress, sadness stacked on my shoulders are suddenly laid out laterally in front of me.

I can confront it, one step at a time.

Scott Douglas, journalist and author of Running is My Therapy, which examines the links between exercise and mental health, told the The Globe and Mail that for mild to moderate depression and anxiety, “exercise is at least as effective as the two standard go-to treatments, therapy and medication.”

It’s also the small things; birds, water, trees, a glimpse or a nod from a fellow runner—a stranger, now familiar. Research shows that being immersed in natural environments can improve mood and reduce stress. These fleeting moments, however simple, remind me that I’m here, and that like a run, this pandemic, this new reality, is temporary.

There is an end, a finish line.

This year I learned what I cannot control. I learned to reach goals I set myself, however small. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and I’m able, in my own way, to cope.

These days, running is existing, and I’m grateful for both.