“You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”
Few years ago, I was driving in the rural areas of Ohio. I made a stop at McDonald’s to get a snack and drink. I’d ordered chicken nuggets and coffee.
I was wearing a T-shirt with a big number 26.2 on my chest.
A cashier at McDonald, a lady, told me, “I never heard about the 26.2 radio station.”
I said, “what.”
She replied, “the big number on your T-shirt.”
I know I’m a polite guy, didn’t laugh externally, and told her, “this number is about a marathon.”
She quickly interjected without a second thought, “I’ve never heard of a marathon radio station.”
I told her again, “this is about running a marathon, not a radio station.”
And then she said, “oh yeah, my niece used to run that.”
I quietly paid money and left saying “thank you”.
In the car I told myself, “why am I laughing now?”
I remembered one incident from a few years ago.
I’d finished my 10K run and I was eating hot dogs under the shade of a tree.
Another race participant joined me in the shade because the day was pretty sunny.
He inquired with me and asked, “do you know the recent Badwater sad news?”
I replied, “what?”
“Badwater, what’s this?” I asked.
He said, “never mind.”
To ease my situation, he deviated the conversation to that day’s running experience.
He said that he ran a half marathon.
I could see from his bib number that he ran a half marathon.
When he left I did google search on my phone, what the heck Badwater is.
I saw it as one of the most intense hard running experiences of human life.
Badwater is the world’s toughest foot race, a 135-mile course starting at 86 m below sea level and ending at an elevation of 2548 m high.
I told myself, are you kidding me?
I regretted laughing quietly at the woman at McDonald.
I told myself, head down man, and don’t laugh at people, there are people who might laugh at you too.
I started driving and headed towards my destination.
Making people fun on anything which they don’t know, whatever simple it is, indicates our lack of emotional intelligence.
I guess I’m more mature now, at least a little bit, both mentally and emotionally.
The reason I shared the above story is related to my running experience and its impact in my life.
Nowadays I feel I’ve improved my emotional intelligence over the years due to running incorporation in my life.
Don’t ask me how.
I don’t know but it’s working. When I accumulate more mileage in a week, I feel different.
Me and my wife would argue about anything, and don’t get me wrong, we still do occasionally.
This is how a husband and wife relationship grows bringing and seeing our differences wearing different lenses, but together.
When the argument would become hot and intense, she would leave the spot with an irritating voice.
I’d get out of the house to run without making any sound at the front door.
I’d run for at least one hour.
I’d be back home, enter in her room and said, ” I’m stupid, I’m sorry, I hurt your feelings.”
I’d not hug because I’d be sweating.
I’d bend down to untie my shoelaces.
My wife would tell me, “if you’re becoming this kind of person by running everyday, I’ll untie your shoelaces everyday for you “
I’d simply smile, no words, and say “thank you.”
I’m pretty sure not only running, any athletic activity improves our emotional intelligence.
There are many other reasons they hypnotized me to run.
First of all, I enjoy it.
I feel happy and relaxed when I’m sweating on the road.
I feel free and independent from my deadlines, reports, writings, power points, presentations, experiments, and meetings from my professional scientist life.
Even though I feel tired after running, it’s not the mind, only the body that tires.
I run to avoid my personal pain, discomfort, and many others.
Few years ago I lost my maternal grandma. I grew up with her. Truly speaking, she raised me in so many different ways which is almost impossible to express here.
The last time I spent time with her before her death, her memory was very thin, many times she couldn’t recognize me so I had to describe myself to her as who I am.
I would tell myself, “am I going to be the same with no memory when I become old?”
“Am I going to be a child again?”
These questions would come to my mind after spending time with my grandma, after seeing her activities, after listening to her quietly when she was in her mid nineties.
She would behave like a 10 years old child, pure thoughts, no regrets, no shame, no opinion, no judgements, nothing hidden, emotionless, and truth.
I remember, at one time, while we’re sitting in her bed, she told me, “grandson, I don’t like white bed sheets, can you buy yellow colored bed sheets for me?”
I became teary and told her, “of course, grandma, I will.”
After 5 minutes, I told her, “ I’m going to get a yellow bed sheet for you.”
She replied, “why, I like this white color so much.”
I’ve read that about 3.4 million people in the USA aged 71 and older, have some form of dementia.
I couldn’t be there with my grandma in the final days of her life.
There are multiple unavoidable reasons for that because we’re separated by more than 7600 miles away from each other.
This was a very complicated grieving period for me.
She was the center of our whole family, she was the reason for our family gathering, and now we have to make up some reason for those kinds of family gatherings.
To be honest, the spirit of our family cohesion has ended.
Whatever I told about my maternal grandma also applies to my maternal uncle, who is my first teacher in this world. I’ve so many memories with him.
Unlike my grandma’s situation, I was there with my uncle in his final days of life. His death was untimely due to chronic disease.
When I get out of my home and run, I bring those lost loved ones close to me, close to my heart, so many of my memories about them come to mind and become vivid.
I absorb those memories that strengthen me with different vibrations.
I don’t want to explain who our parents are in our life.
I remember them a lot when I run.
I bring a lot of activities that me and my dad did when I was in middle school.
Sometimes, immediately after coming home from a run, I make a call to my parents, otherwise, I more likely forget to call them due to another set of busy life that intrudes us.
So, I simply run to comprehend my relationship to my parents, to my wife, to my kids, to my brothers, and to my sisters.
I also run to experiment my personal limits.
I just don’t love running, it is my keen desire to see and explore the bravery and beauty of my body, my endurance, and my nutrition.
Physical enabling is a part of the process of spiritual growth, and endurance is a demonstration of our faith.
When we become tired, we want to stop but if we ignore the stop and get going, amazing things start to appear.
Running itself is a meditation for me. Truly speaking, anybody can do meditation in the activity of their choice, it only depends on that person how to see things around that activity.
When I reach a flat surface in my running, my breathing becomes normal and smooth but when I reach a hilly surface breathing becomes quick and shallow. I don’t do anything, I keep running, my body goes into automation.
The beauty is to observe what’s going on.
For me, breathing in and breathing out is the same, normal or quick breathing is the same.
The whole universe is the same, me, my inhale and exhale of oxygen and carbon dioxide is just a natural phenomenon, we all human beings are sharing to each other.
Not only that, when that oxygen and carbon dioxide flows in the air, it’s touching every one.
It’s amazing to feel and practice to see the things as they are inside and outside of our body.
After making running a part of my life I’ve improved my cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is to have conflicting beliefs, to have discomfort so that we go to ease our feelings.
In the past, I used to think “money is bad” but at the same time I also used to think “I need more money.”
I knew from the core of my heart that it could take many years of hard work and sacrifice to make more money.
So the simplest way I would take was an easier and safer path-”money is bad”; “rich people are corrupt”; “aiming to have more money never ends.”
This was my pure cognitive dissonance.
When I knew and read about rich people, their studies, habits, struggles, and their contributions to society, I gradually moved away from my unexplored and vague beliefs.
During my running, my cognitive dissonance started to fade away. Many times I accepted my strengths and weaknesses as they are.
For me running not only helps me to lose my body weight and make me healthy, but also cleans my overactive mind.
Remember, what we accomplish in life is not the only important thing, it is equally important how we accomplish it. I’ve received the answer of what to accomplish at home when I’m relaxing but I’ve received the answer of how to do it while running.
When we dissociate our body from normal state and associate it with excited state, something unusual happens in our mind. For me, one of the excited states of my body is running.
I cannot become a great scientist just by spending more time in the laboratory, I have to detach myself from the laboratory, I have to go in an excited state so that my mind can think, create ideas, and strategize them accordingly. When I’m running, I’m quiet but I’m in mental flow, me and my pure thoughts.
I’ve gathered many ideas regarding my professional scientist life not in the laboratory or at home or reading literature somewhere in the quiet room, they came from seemingly unrelated dots connections during my early morning runs.
I filter a lot of randomness in my mind. These random thoughts come into my mind during running.
When we filter random thoughts based on already known information, we create so called new knowledge.
Just think like this.
If I ask you showing a pregnant woman about the sex of her baby in her belly, your probability of saying correct sex would be only 50 percent because you are purely guessing.
But if I ask the same question to her doctor, his or her probability number would be different because he or she has done many tests and many observations even if that particular test to determine sex hasn’t been done. This clearly indicates that her doctor has much more information which you don’t have.
Doctor can filter the random thoughts more easily than us to guess the newborn’s sex.
For me running has become pivotal to filter my random thoughts to improve my personal and professional life.
Remember, nature has given our body to run.
Look at our two legs, hand motions, torsos, sweat glands, and hairless skin. What all of these tell us is we can run and we have to run.
Another special characteristic that we have is a vertical body that helps us to retain a very small amount of direct sunlight. This simply means we can run longer.
Why do we run when we see any danger or any threat to us?
Because our body is designed to run to protect us. This is natural.
Nature says you become happy and healthy when you run. When we are far from danger or threat, we obviously become happy. This is only possible because we can run.
Think of our children.
They always run, they smile when they run, they never feel tired if you let them run, just watch unsupervised children, how happy they become.
Our children chase their friend or dog or cat and they run.
Bottom line, nature says we should run.
Running is a natural and basic activity, instinctive to our being.
I read about Abraham Lincoln, he was a very smart footracer.
I also read about Nelson Mandela, he used to run 7 miles a day when he was imprisoned.
If we run, the number of deaths from degenerative heart disease, sudden cardiac arrest, obesity, hypertension, blocked arteries, and diabetes would be significantly lower.
There is one more advantage of a longer run.
It helps to increase the number of mitochondria as well as capillaries in our active muscles.
It improves our muscle’s ability to remove and utilize available oxygen.
Running also recruits our muscle fibers that would otherwise go unused.
Running removes our fatigue in our central nervous system.
This is the statement from Daniel Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, “if there is any magic bullet to make human beings healthy, it’s to run.”
Thank you for your time.
“You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because you stop running.”