The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears or the sea.
– Isak Dinesen
After 10 years of running, I’ve tried a treadmill for the first time this week.
Once, in my first weeks as a runner, my friend Katy persuaded me to try running on a treadmill at the student recreation center. Though I was struggling with running half a mile without walking, I was already enough of a runner to know something seemed wrong about running on a treadmill.
The weather back home in Illinois has been a bit gross over the last week, so I decided to give the treadmill another choice.
Three times this week, I put Google Music on shuffle, punched in a program and “went” for a run.
I’ll not lie. I ran faster than I’ve been running as of late. I was able to keep track of my pulse whenever I wanted. I new my speed at all times. I kept running the entire time. I was protected from the elements. I had a full report of each accomplishment when I was done.
As helpful as all that information is, I miss running outside.
When I was done with each treadmill run, no matter how successful the data flashing on the screen told me my run had been, I hadn’t gone anywhere.
I was still in my mom’s basement – staring at the furnace. I’d gotten nowhere faster and more efficiently than if I’d run outside, sure. But nowhere was still nowhere.
While I might pause to walk sometimes while running outdoors, I have control of that stopping, and it’s up to me to set the goal for starting again.
Sure, I was sheltered from the elements and protected from distractions, but I hadn’t seen anything. I imagined if I’d been running on a treadmill exclusively in training for my first marathon. Each week, my training would have improved, racheted up mechanically according to schedule.
What a shock it would have been, footfall after footfall, to attempt to reach my goal on a course filled with imperfections and distractions. I would have trained perfectly efficiently, but have no idea how or experience in adapting to my surroundings.
To learn how to run in the real world, I needed to practice running in the real world. My success wasn’t in a computer read out, but in the sense of accomplishment of enduring freezing rain or discovering a new part of my neighborhood.
While I’m home during break, I’ll likely continue to use the treadmill from time to time.
Starting next week, I’ll be back outside. When you’ve learned to do something authentically, anything less than feels just that.