Why I’ve Started Keeping Running Shoes By the Door: 1in6 Thursdays on the Joyful Heart Foundation Blog
I am a marathoner. It takes more than just training. It takes commitment, mental preparation, and a well-arranged screen-to-couch set up. I could watch the same television show for hours on end. Marathons are a piece of cake. Usually they involve eating cake.
For years the only running I did was as Pac-Man. Greasy fingers leaning on the joystick, running from ghosts, constantly chased in the dark; I played the video game, like most other games, locked alone in my room. I identified with the hungry yellow dot on a deep level. There were memories I had that seem to follow me wherever I went. While I didn’t have hankering for Mentos like Pac-Man, I had my moments where I could push back against the things that haunted me—but it would never last.
There are boys all over the world like me. Having an unwanted or abusive sexual experience in childhood can make you feel like you are powerless—that you’ve lost before the game’s even begun.
We think of our lives as games to be won, with levels to achieve, points to be scored, and players to be defeated. We use cheat codes to get around the puzzles that we can’t solve and quit playing when it doesn’t go our way. But when your controller isn’t connected, and you lose control, it’s easy to become frustrated.
Running seems like the only way to keep going. So, I got what Pac-Man was up to.
However, any serious Pac-Man player will tell you that the game is a marathon, not a sprint. You can come back from anything, all you need is one life. Luckily, that’s what we’ve got.
I began to reconsider why I was running, and my overall fitness regimen after I came across the story of Rob Young. Young is an ultra-marathon runner from the UK, whose running method seemed unorthodox. On a dreary morning in 2014, Rob Young watched the London Marathon from his couch, and wagered his wife that he could run it. That night, with no training or preparation, he printed a route before laying out his clothes and his running shoes.
Young is like so many men today—having endured years of abuse by his father from which he could never outrun. But with each race, he’s finally learning to run wild. He began to run a marathon almost every single day. In the two years since, he’s become one of the world’s most recognized ultra-marathon runners—being dubbed Marathon Man UK.
Young has run through sickness, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, intense weather, getting lost, depleting finances, and the disclosure of his painful childhood. However, he doesn’t let these boundaries stop him. They are only pit stops to pass through, and every finish line just a brief respite.
For many like Young, the race does not end everyday, it simply pauses. And like Pac-Man, the path is not for sprinting—it’s a marathon. Many see running as an act of cowardice. I see it as an act of endurance; an act to prove that you can keep up—even lead the pack. Obstacles do not end our journeys, or even define them.
So I’ve started getting off my couch, bit by bit. So far, I’ve grabbed my shoes and put them by the door. Every trip begins with preparation. While I can’t print out a route, I’m not that worried. This is just a pitstop, and I’m learning to enjoy the run. And soon, maybe I’ll love another kind of marathon.
Landry Ayres is a blogger and intern for 1in6. Raised in north Texas, he is currently a graduate student at George Mason University working toward his M.A. in Health Communication. His research focuses on resources for men who have unwanted or abusive sexual experiences in childhood, the HIV/AIDS rhetoric of evangelical organizations, performance, and public speaking education. He is also a coach of the George Mason Forensics Team, and a public speaking instructor at a variety of institutes across the nation.
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