I Ran to Escape My Problems. Then Running Became One.

I wanted to listen to my body — instead, I made it scream

Anna Held
Human Parts
Published in
6 min readAug 14, 2019


Photo: The Good Brigade/Getty Images

YYour body has stopped talking to you. For the whole summer, it hasn’t told you to sleep or eat or move or do anything at all. That has been your relationship with your body since you were young. You waited and it spoke to you, conveying information through pain and pleasure, reminding you to nourish it and keep your hinges loose. But then there was too much pain and too much information, and then nothing. You stay still for a long time.

You know that silence is dangerous. Sharks have to move forward to stay alive. You are not a shark, but you are another apex predator, which is a fact that feels less like a personal attribute and more like an unavoidable element of your species. It’s a burden to have the capacity for so much.

You start running because you aren’t good at much else. You aren’t naturally strong or coordinated or athletic in any way, but you are light and okay with things taking a long time.

You know that some people run so they can think, but you run so you can’t.

At first, you like the metaphor of running, the progress, one step at a time, always forward, except running as progress doesn’t really work because you always end up back at home. Nothing has changed. You joke about running away from your problems, but they don’t go anywhere and you don’t either. In that case, maybe the metaphor does work.

You know that some people run so they can think, but you run so you can’t. That part of the appeal is a given at first, your mind unable to move past the vinegary burn in your lungs, but then you get better and have to push yourself harder to achieve the same blankness.

You are weatherproof. In the dead heat of August in New Orleans, you peel sweat off your arms like you’re stripping off sleeves and take your shirt off on the porch, letting it thwack against the ground like a wet towel. You put on fleece like a suit of armor, your eyes peeking out between your hat and the high collar of your jacket, to protect yourself from the bare freeze of Boston in January. You move three times, learning the fine topography of each new city…