By Scott Douglas
Running makes me feel fully alive.
Check that: Running outside makes me feel fully alive. Running on a treadmill makes me feel like I often do when not in motion—in sort of a gray middle zone of energy and enthusiasm, more waiting out the current experience than engaged in it.
I run every day unless I’m injured, which means that, as of this writing, I’ve run outside every day but three since April 2021. Doing so doesn’t make me a better person or a more dedicated runner than those who, quite reasonably, take to the treadmill in challenging weather. But it certainly makes me a lot happier than I otherwise would be.
I bought a treadmill before moving to Maine 20 years ago. Despite my distaste for being on a treadmill, I used it a lot that first winter, because a daytime high of 12 was daunting to someone who grew up in Maryland. Over time, I realized that even the silliest, sloppiest snowy run was more enjoyable than being in caged-gerbil mode. I wound up giving the treadmill to a neighbor who is also a Mid-Atlantic transplant.
Why do I run outside daily regardless of the weather? The simple act of leaving the house to tour the environs on foot is an adventure. Something interesting will happen even if I run down the same road or tackle the same trail for the ninth straight day. What I see, hear, and feel, and the thoughts those sensations spur, create a unique experience, and one that’s a needed antidote to sitting inside in front of a screen. No matter how tired I am, immersing myself in nature leaves me more energized. There has never been a day when I went to bed thinking, “I shouldn’t have ventured out today.”
This sense of adventure is especially true in Maine. Four distinct seasons give me a broader range of experiences than my comrades in San Diego enjoy as I play inspector general of my little world. I look for the first migratory birds in spring and the last monarch butterfly in fall. I search for lupines and lady slippers in June, and track secret chanterelle spots in July. I note the changing light and feel of the air as summer turns to autumn. In winter, I run past a frozen pond and smile at how in six months I’ll cover the same ground soaked in sweat.
Running when the windchill is -20 or it’s 90 and humid isn’t always thrilling. But then, the point of life isn’t to be as comfortable as possible at all times. I tell myself I live through a fuller swing of the pendulum than most others in their late 50s. All I have to do is step outside.
- Scott Douglas
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