Sunshine and snow, fresh air and movement beat sitting in front of a light box any day. I’m not about to dispute the existence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or even traditional medicine’s high-tech ways of treating it.
Running has been a comfort source throughout my life, a primal behavior I turn to when life gets complicated. Of course I ran as a child – didn’t we all? Then in adolescence, overdosed on Rocky movies and determined to stop sitting the volleyball bench, I ran again, and was not disappointed. Throughout my young adult life, changes and difficulties and disappointments have thrust me out of the house, running away, chasing down solutions, rocking my inner child to the elemental rhythm of breathing in and out, pumping legs up and down.
Christopher McDougall has written a love story-science lesson-history-sociological study-adventure tale about running that has jolted me even more joyfully out the door these days. Reading his book Born to Run has left me feeling like Forrest Gump, (“runninG” with a good hard “g” at the end); or like Silas, my three-year-old, who spontaneously runs back and forth the length of our house while telling stories about himself, every day, often a few times a day. Like a ten-year-old, I read McDougall’s tale of running with ultra-marathoners and Tarahumara Indians, twenty, fifty, a hundred miles down the trails, and I am right there with them. I am Scott Jurek, the vegan ultra-runner stocking his fanny pack with pitas and hummus rather than high-falutin’ power gels. No, wait, I am Barefoot Ted, caressing terra firma with my bare soles. But then, too, I must be Ann Trason, 5’4″ and unstoppable, dubbed “La Bruja” (the witch) as she zooms past legendary Tarahumara running men including Juan Herrera and Martimano Cervantes in the Leadville Trail 100.
Ten-year-old me, immersed in other people’s stories, thrusts 34-year-old me out into the sunny snowy February day, and as together we chase down Scott and Ted and Ann, my head clears, my heart pumps, and I am me, alive and free and really me, also born to run; and my three miles through the parks of this Midwestern prairie town is brilliant, right up there with sex and drugs and rock and roll – except the drugs, that is, because this kind of inhaling is actually good for me, my favorite drug to treat my level of SADness.