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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Running to Create Space

I first started running because I was mad.

Seriously.

It was my senior year of high school, and our ultimate frisbee team had lost a game to the defending state champs. It wasn't the outcome that upset me. It was how we played, myself included.

We treated our opponents with the reverence a private would give to a four star general. Instead of competing as equals, we let them dictate the pace and flow of the game. Not surprisingly, we never stood a chance.

Afterwards, I was hot. Maybe it was my natural lean towards introversion, or maybe it was because I knew I shared the blame for the way we played, but I said nothing.

Instead, I took off running.

Seven aggressive miles later, I had come to my senses. Sure, the endorphin rush helped. Burning off excess energy allowed rational thoughts to take over too. But, must importantly, the run had created space.

Renowned Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once said, "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

Too often, in the heat of a stressful moment, we react - emotionally, excessively, incoherently. But when we quickly react, we give up the one piece we can control: our response.

A response requires space. Space allows a visceral reaction to run its course without being expressed. Once the feeling has subsided, an organized response can emerge.

Sometimes, we need to magnify that space. A short pause isn't always enough to prevent an outburst.

For me, running has been the answer.

When I know I need to be polished in my response to an unpleasant email, text, or piece of news, a quick run helps create the space to do that.

Today, I run for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it's about physical fitness. Other times, it's about having solidarity with the athletes I coach.

But at the times when I need it most, it's about space.

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