While most people take up running to improve their physical well being, perhaps shed a few pounds, the real revelation comes when their mental and psychological state also improves markedly as running releases its warm bath of brain chemicals bringing a deep sense of calm and equanimity.
“The Runners High is one of my favorite parts of this sport,” tweeted U.S. Olympic steeplechase medalist Evan Jager. “Cruising at the end of a long run but feeling effortless…”
The feeling running engenders is another reason runners tend to bond across a wide spectrum of age and speed. It’s not just the camaraderie of effort, but the fact that the sport seems to be about 99% a-hole free. Not sure if that is chicken or egg, whether such people are drawn to the activity, or the activity itself helps create that quality in its practitioners over time.
But for anyone who has gone through the long struggle from first training days to final exultant step of a goal achieved – like the thousands who completed yesterday’s Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon – there is an attendant grace and humility from champion to final finisher, because they know it could have gone off the rails any number of times along the way.
So when we think RUNNER we may think self-control, or self-possession, but we don’t generally think self-centered, much less narcissist, because at its core narcissism reflects a very low self-esteem, and running has been shown to contribute to a healthy, balanced psyche.
In Washington there are many office holders who run or exercise vigorously for the physical and psychological benefit it affords them in an otherwise stressful environment. Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush 43 found a release through running to one degree or another, while President Obama continued his life-long love of basketball while in office.
President Trump was a baseball player as a young man, and is an avid, low-handicap golfer now. But there doesn’t seem to be an aerobic component in his life. Though during an interview on the Dr. Oz show last September, candidate Trump suggested that waving-his-arms during speeches is “I guess, a form of exercise”.
And he says he’s not liberal. So how about REM sleep? Twitching eyes count, too? Where do Jimmy legs fit into your exercise regime, Mr. President? What’s drumming your fingers then, speed work?
Actually, Mr. Trump showed Dr. Oz excellent blood work numbers for a man of 70 years. And good genes, too, as both sides of his family have a history of long life. So he might be able to get away with a little less rigor in terms of lifestyle, as he does with his fast food diet.
Plus, he doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, he loves and is loved. He’s engaged, too, with what he does for a living, and his vigor is fully evident. In other words, there are lots of pluses health wise for the current POTUS.
But when he floats out the idea that gesticulating may be a form of exercise, I begin to think we are veering into “ketchup is a vegetable” territory, which just makes us wonder, what other stuff does he believe?
Oh, that’s right, that his inaugural crowd was the biggest ever, that his electoral college victory was the largest since Reagan, and when he looks at pal Tom Brady when they play golf together, he thinks, “I feel the same age as him.” To which we say, ‘whoa there, big fella. Not sure Giselle and Melania are going to have a problem differentiating between you two.’
For all these reasons, I feel like offering a six-month personal running program to the White House to help our new president work out his “issues” hoping running might not only strengthen his cardio-vascular system, but toughen his psychological skin, too, which seems as thin as a slice of European breakfast ham.
After his Jerry Springer Show press conference last Thursday in the White House and then his still-campaigning public rally in Florida – Hello, Sweden! – a solid running program will be good for him, good for us, and good for the world.