Full disclosure: I'm a Federal employee.
Not only that, but I have worked for the government for well over a decade and would not want to do anything else. In fact, I directed my education (obtained at a good university) towards getting employed by the government and helping society in one way or another. So, the last few months have been increasingly rough as I've watched my alma mater's reputation damaged when a former university employee was accused of sexually assaulting children, while members of the administration failed to act. Now every time I turn on the news, another federal agency (one I have worked for) seems to be in trouble for irresponsible spending or misconduct. As the scandals have begun to pile up and I have found myself becoming increasingly angry at the few (very few) individuals who are hurting the many, there has been one thing I could do to center myself and gain perspective.
Each of us runs for our own reasons. We are often asked by other to give those reasons. Some of us tell the truth: "I want to lose weight", "I want to live longer", "I want to have more energy". Some of us lie and don't tell stories of fighting depression, addiction, trying to get through a stressful divorce, needing time away from screaming kids. But, we all have reasons.
When we get those questions from non-runners, we often pigeonhole ourselves by sticking with one simple answer. It's easier that way. For many of us, it's because trying to adequately explain why we run to a non-runner is nearly impossible. I'm reminded of the movie Black Hawk Down when Hoot is talking to Eversmann and says, "When I go home people'll ask me, 'Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?' You know what I'll say? I won't say a goddamn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it."
Now I'm not comparing running to combat, by any means. But, I for many of us running has an intrinsic meaning that is difficult to convey to others. Partially, this is because our reasons change as our lives progress and I think that is a good thing.
Years ago, if I was asked why I run I would say it was to perform better on the basketball court. Years later, I would say it was to get through physical training required for my job. A few years ago, I was recovering from a serious neck injury and had something to prove. Last November, I would have said it was because I want my newborn daughter to see a rack of finishers' medals and bibs hanging up as she grows older. Today, I am saying that I'm reasserting some feeling of control and balance in a society where scandals are commonplace and rage is warranted but often misdirected.
When I got home yesterday I did not turn on the news. I did not check the latest stories on the news websites. I simply put on my running clothes and stepped outside. I ran a fast 5K, hit the final two-tenths of a mile in a full sprint and glanced at my watch to see if I could beat an arbitrary time I had set in my head. And during that last two-tenths, do you know what I thought about? Nothing but those two-tenths.
I think that in some way, that's why we all run. To blur out everything but those two-tenths. Everything else is static.