How Running Saves Your Soul: Part 1: My Secret Habits

Preface: On my motivations for writing today:

1) Recently, I keep ending up in conversations about the therapeutic effects of running long distances, and friends' experiences of starting running (or bumping up their miles) in the midst of some type of life crisis - divorce, job loss, death of family members, and so forth. 

2) After seeing pictures of friends from my cohort getting ordained, I realized that it's been just over two years since I wrote this post, which started the public phase of the life crisis that precipitated my own decision to start running - my departure from the process of becoming a priest in the Episcopal Church, and from the world of organized religion in general. 

My Secret Habits

When you're an ultra-runner, in my experience, you feel conflicting desires to a) post all of your awesome running pictures and results on Facebook and tell everyone you know about the 50k you did over the weekend and about your buddy who just ran 100 miles through the mountains and to b) keep your habit a secret from important people in your life because you know they'll secretly think you must have psychological problems that would make you want to run so much. There's definitely ego (at least for me) involved in the drive to run longer than all of those average wimps who are just doing marathons, but that same ego gets hurt a bit when people tell you that you're crazy, and that there's no way running so far so often can be healthy.

Personally, I keep finding myself picking up habits that I have these kinds of conflicted emotions about.  Before I left the church, it was religion.  I loved a lot about it - most of my life centered on it for 30 years - but I was uncomfortable talking to almost anyone about it, because, well, you know - politics and religion.  After I left, it got even worse for awhile because of all of the baggage from the experience made talking about it like picking an infected emotion scab, and because very few people can identify with the experience of being a minister who quit church anyway. 

I've generally always written, and I didn't feel particularly self-conscious about that for most of my life.  But then, like an idiot, after I left the church I wrote a couple of books about that process.  Writing a book was something I had always wanted to do, and now I'm proud that I did.  I even think the first one, I Hope I Was Wrong About Eternal Damnation, was pretty good for what it was.  I counted today, and between that one and the short follow up Deconsecrating Myself, I've sold 182 copies, and I've  gotten a lot of positive feedback from people who read them.  I spent a couple of months in 2011 posting I Hope I Was Wrong online in serial fashion (it's all still there for free), and had a lot of conversations with friends and family about it, but I haven't talked about it much in the last year since I finished the last post (I don't think I've mentioned it here, outside of the link on the right, since I started this new blog).  Now that it's written, talking about writing almost necessarily comes back to talking about religion, and I've rarely brought it up with the new people I've met.

And so, I say all of this to get to my point that I've decided it will be worthwhile to talk a bit about the role that running has played in helping me get through the shitty experience that was leaving church two years ago, because I think it's an interesting little case study that people who have used running as a fun alternative to therapy will be able to identify with.  Religion's gotten to be less of a sore point as time has progressed, and I've gotten a little bit more conscious about the role that running - and the running community - plays in helping make sure I don't go bonkers.  I'll do at least one post on the topic (Friday?), and maybe a couple.  We'll see how it goes.  My personal hope is that in that process - along with writing something interesting - I'll also be able to sand off the emotional edges of my running and writing habits, so I'll be comfortable talking about them to the extent that people will start to get annoyed with the frequency of my Facebook posts about both.


the mom said…
Literally, I was just thinking this evening that you hadn't posted any blogs in quite some time, and the ones you had posted had all been strictly about running and the races/events you had run. I'm anxious to read some emotion again.
Cassie said…
thank you for sharing, Tim. I would love to talk to you about this topic. I'm excited for more posts.
Deby Kumasaka said…
I also am anxious to read more. You have never mentioned "the past" to me and I am now intrigued.... I have a lot of questions surrounding religion and hope for some enlightenment when I read your books.
Unknown said…
thanks for reading friends!