Gratitude and Running

  • Gratitude and Running: San Francisco Marathon Blog

Written by Erin Garvey, 2016 San Francisco Marathon Ambassador
Erin Mink Garvey has had the pleasure of running TSFM’s 26.2 twice (in 2010 and 2013), its 5k (in 2014) and is absolutely stoked to be running the 26.2 again in 2016. Since 2007, she has run 25 marathons, qualifying for Boston 13 times and NYC once; more than 30 half marathons; and a trail 50k. She obviously loves the running community and the sport’s transformative effects on people’s lives. When she’s not running, you’ll find Erin spending time with her husband and two daughters blogging or cooking and baking vegan deliciousness. She and her family recently relocated to San Jose, California, after living in Chicago for more than a decade.

Alum Rock - SJ CA 11.4.2015For as long as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Maybe it’s because I lived in the Midwest for the first few decades of my life, and November is a beautiful time to enjoy the area’s changing landscape. It might also be because I have an early November wedding anniversary and birthday and like to celebrate all of them all month long.

It might be all of this, or it might just be because as I’ve gotten older (and maybe just a little wiser), I gravitate toward Thanksgiving simply because as a runner, I give myself plenty of opportunities to reflect on all that I’m thankful for in my life. I totally dig that the most popular day of the year for running is Thanksgiving (think nationwide turkey trots). Gratitude and running is a fantastic marriage, as far as I’m concerned.

I get excited for Thanksgiving each year because it’s the singular day of the year when all of us – runners and non-runners alike – give pause to the busyness of our lives and reflect.

I’m just as guilty as the next person of getting caught-up in the unnecessary busyness of life, but I think November – the season of gratitude – and running together create a dynamic, desperately-needed meditative duo.

We can all be a little strung-out at times. Running and its concomitant endocannibinoids often bring a “runner’s high” or moments of clarity, which for some – myself included – can result in an almost Zen-like state. With the month of November being about slowing down and acknowledging all the good stuff and good people in our lives, it makes a lot of sense that running fits so effortlessly into the puzzle. For me, it’s often when I’m literally on the run when I think about the aforementioned good stuff and good people, and it’s when I give thanks.

Though I’m stating the obvious, as runners, we have a lot to be thankful for. Not only our desire to run – to lace up our shoes day in and day out – but also our sheer ability to run – to put one foot in front of the other, hundreds of thousands of times – are both attributes that not everyone in this world shares.

The fact of the matter is that because we both can and want to move our bodies, we should give thanks. It’s often not until we can no longer or choose to no longer run – because of illness, injury, or simply because we’re feeling burnt out and need a break – do we realize how incredibly lucky we are to run at all. I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. It sucks.

The season of giving thanks also gives us an opportunity to be thankful for all the people “behind the scenes,” the folks who enable us to run as we’d like. Though we might like to think otherwise, none of us are little islands unto ourselves; that is, our running impacts more than just us. Many of us are not only runners but also significant others, parents, children, employees – the list goes on – and consequently, our running hobby affects a lot of people.

We can’t run without the unwavering support of those around us, so here, too, is a reminder, or another opportunity, to express gratitude toward the many folks who support us. Many of us, myself included, say that running allows us to become better versions of ourselves and therefore allows us to be better significant others, parents, children – to name a few. I know I sure as hell can’t run like I do without a lot of support, and I’m very grateful for it.

I’ve run thousands of miles over my lifetime, and one reason I continue to run and push myself is because running gives me limitless opportunities to reflect on my own mortality. That’s not to say that each time I run I am thinking about how or when I’ll die – it’s not that at all, really – but instead, running, and its subsequent moments of solitude and reflection, remind me of both the sanctity and brevity of life.

Running gives all of us endless opportunities to see and experience the world differently, as well as numerous occasions to give thanks in ways that might be lost on us otherwise.

I hope you’ll be able to get out for a run on Thanksgiving Day this year. It doesn’t matter if you’re running around the block for a few minutes, participating in a turkey trot, hitting the treadmill, or getting lost on your favorite trail. As you’re out there, I encourage you to take an extra moment to convey your gratitude for running: for being able to do it and for all the people in your life who support you. I know I’ll be doing the same.

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