The thought of running outdoors used to scare me.
What if I trip over a rock and break both my legs? What if people point and laugh at me for being slow? What is someone kidnaps me? What if I collapse from heat stroke?
What if, what if, what if … it took a while for me to get over my fears and finally take that first step outdoors (on a non-race day). The treadmill was my safety net. It was comfortable and familiar and secure. I went from couch to 5K on the treadmill and thought I fell in love with running.
The thing is, now that I’m running outdoors I really know what it means to love running.
When I’m on the treadmill I listen to music to break up the monotony (“I’ll Make a Man Out You” from the Mulan soundtrack is my jam) but there is no monotony outdoors. There are trees and flowers and hills and people and the big, beautiful sky. All of that sounds so ridiculously utopian, but it’s true.
When I run outdoors I notice things I don’t see when I’m zipping by in my car. Neighbors I had never spoken a word to before now wave at me and I say “hi” in return. There’s this house on my route home that I look forward to running past because the garden is full of beautiful flowers and they smell so amazing.
One of my favorite parts of running outdoors is running through our local park. Every evening the park is full of little league teams playing ball, kids running around on the playground and older people jogging and biking the paths.
It reminds me so strongly of the park I used to go down to when I was a kid to watch my friends play little league baseball. Before I started running through the park, those were memories long forgotten. Now I can’t help but smile and remember those summer nights – the lemonade and the hot dogs and the friendship.
Running outdoors makes me feel alive, it makes me feel nostalgic, it makes me feel connected to the community and mostly it helps me to relieve stress from my day.
Yesterday for example, I had a pretty bad day at work. Not because anything in particular happened, but I was just feeling very tired and a little bit sick. When I got home I laced up to head out for a short run and came home feeling 110% better.
Running on the treadmill might have made me feel just as good, but I doubt it. I wouldn’t have seen energetic kids at the park or cute dogs out for a walk or felt the warm breeze on my face.
This is a little bit of a sappy post, but I really just wanted to put it out there: I love running outdoors.