Running Away From It All

Read any article about running, and you’re bound to find all the advantages listed within the first paragraph or two. And I’ll admit, they drew me in at first: the health benefits, the new companions, the opportunity to see Beirut from a different perspective. But those factors were so immediate, I feared that once their effect wore off, I wouldn’t want to continue running at all.

Until I realized something: because running takes up so much of what little free time I have, I don’t have time to overthink and overanalyze all the details of my day.

When I lace up my sneakers and get on the course, nothing matters but checking off those kilometers- and sometimes finishing them faster than before. And that in turn has made me a much happier and less frustrated person.

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You see,  I am a perfectionist to a fault, and I (mistakenly) hold myself to very high standards. This did not help at all in the period after our wedding when I had found myself overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities at work and at home. If I didn’t meet a deadline, have a hot meal on the table every evening, and/or didn’t follow through on familial obligations, I would feel like a total failure.

Needless to say, I reached a breaking point. I would respond to criticism with ugly tears, snapping if the responses I heard didn’t match what I fathomed in my head. It didn’t entirely help the cause that I was surrounded by so much doom and gloom at the hospital- I even debated moving onto a less stressful environment for the sake of my sanity.

This was far from my usual carefree, impulsive self- the person I knew Ahmad fell in love with. Neither he nor I deserved to come home every day to the worst version of myself.

But when I started running, my ugly version and the hospital drama didn’t even walk in the front door of our house.

I would only be afforded a few minutes at home to change my clothes and pack my gym bag before rushing off to meet with the team. I didn’t have time to focus on what had happened during the day because my concerns shifted to what clothes would make me the most comfortable or if we’d turned on the hot water.

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So by the time we got back, after all those kilometers and stretched out muscles, my mind was near blank. In fact, I’ve settled into a lovely routine of shower, eat, watch Netflix, fall asleep. And repeat.

On the road, I felt like I was leaving my concerns and woes all over Beirut. it didn’t matter that I hadn’t sent in all the emails I should’ve. It didn’t matter if I worked on a particularly hard case. It didn’t matter if I didn’t have a real lunch break where I could enjoy my food. It didn’t matter if there were chores left or if Ahmad and I hadn’t spent enough time together.

Here’s what did (and continues to) matter:

  1. Not falling flat on my face because I didn’t see some invisible pothole- and you know there’s plenty of those in Beirut
  2. Not getting run over by a car
  3. What song will get me to overcome a challenging hill or the never-ending stretch by the Beirut Waterfront
  4. Occasionally, what my average pace is
  5. And most importantly, the utter exhilaration that comes after the end of every run.

If only I can bottle it up and take it with me everywhere I go, I would constantly be on a high. But since that’s not feasible, you’ll find me on the streets, almost literally chasing my own happiness.

Sometimes, I’ll even wake up at 5 am on Sunday for it- an honor once reserved only for the airport.

 

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