It sounds glib to say running saved your life, but in my case that's the way I see it.
Moving to New York is like stepping off on another planet. When you aren't even from a real city, nature is the rule, buildings are the exception. In New York, that's reversed. Will never forget seeing Bryant Park for the first time. When I arrived in the city, I saw thousands of people huddled around a rectangle of grass and staring at it as if something were about to happen. Nothing did.
Life was one long panic attack. My world shrunk very small. After 911, even smaller. I nearly became as small as my apartment, which was almost nine feet by almost nine feet.
Then, HE moved next door.
Why we ever confide in anyone is a mystery. Often, we do it to those that would seem the least likely candidates. Take a look at the guy on the right.............want to tell him about your anxiety?? My advice is: give it a shot! I did, and here comes the glib part: it saved my life.
His answer was simple - RUN.
Behind him, I pushed till I couldn't go anymore. At first, I couldn't even do a mile. At night, he'd tell me stories of the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and living with the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico. I didn't know about all that, but I knew he had no money, no cell phone, no bank card, no bank, no job, and no stress.
EVERY DAY we ran. And after two weeks, I started to feel a floor underneath me, a feeling that things weren't getting worse anymore. It was empowering. Three miles, sometimes five - rain, sleet, hot, cold, or beautiful - we ran. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. "Just do it," he'd say, "it takes the horn out." He said that a lot. The horn of the devil that ails you I took it. For years we held the same routine and my energy and will to do something with myself grew. I started writing. But, after a year of short stories, I needed a subject.
THEN, he brought down his "portfolio" one night. He was the real deal - picture after picture showed him in some far away land with wild natives beyond description. In fact, everything he ever told me turned out to be true. He'd lived with indigenous peoples all over the world and learned the spiritual power of running from the greatest runners on Earth, the Tarahumara.
BUT, he didn't want me to write his life story; he was still living it. I respected that. He then introduced me to Al Howie and a promising book project was off and running. For two years Al and I talked. This guy ran thousands of miles. 5,800 in 103 days to be exact. He had used running to fight his anxiety like me and that led him to break countless world records. His Trans-Canada in 72 days 10 hours still holds to this day.
This is Howie on the right.
He was a gentle soul. From Scotland, he bounced around Turkey and Greece before
landing in Canada, where he started to run at age 30.
He was an enigma. A man that runs around a 400-meter track, over and over again for 350 miles without stopping is alien to me. But he did it with panache!
Soon, I started running longer. A half-marathon, then the Yonkers marathon, followed by the New York City. I did trail runs up and down monsters called Massachusetts hills, up and down ski runs with no snow. I entered a 12-hour run in my hometown. On a one-mile loop, I circled 48 miles the first year on ice and in mud and 56 miles the next year. While working on Al's book, I met this guy and did another book. It was on Tom McGrath. Bar owner, boxer, blackjack dealer, ultrarunner, and a charity fundraising legend. He ran to beat alcohol and then did 1,000 miles around Central Park for kids. Did it five years in a row.
Running may not be for you. It's not for everyone. But wherever your anxiety hides, it doesn't want to come out. If you feel an urge to expose that demon to someone, don't doubt it. Jump. You never know who they are!! As they don't know the bugger in your belly, you don't know the fire that could be lurking in their soul, waiting, just waiting to help you. Maybe, they don't even know it. But, it sure seems the universe does... Below is my neighbor after becoming the first Frenchman to finish a 1,000-mile race!!