I decided not to wear headphones during my race on Saturday. I usually listen to music while I’m running, like most people. It pumps me up, and it helps keep me going when I start to feel fatigued. The right song at the right time can enhance a workout.
I decided not to wear headphones because I thought they were not allowed. Turns out, they were, but I didn’t realize that fact until the day before the race. Even when I figured that out, I decided not to listen to music while I was running. I wanted just to experience the joy of the race. I know that sounds cheesy. It really did feel great though. As I ran up the hill near the Cathedral and into the neighborhood I heard music playing. Someone blasted Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” It was really great to hear everyone cheering.
I saw little kids pounding on drums, people shaking cowbells, cops giving out high-fives, and plenty of other cheers. It was nice to hear all of those things. How many other times in my life am I going to get a high-five from a cop? Probably not many. It was all part of the experience.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much we manufacture our experiences these days. You can listen to literally any song you want, watch pretty much any movie, and find endless sorts of dumb content to entertain your anxious brain. That’s fine every once in awhile. I enjoy watching The Office after a long day where everything is scary and awful. It’s nice to have characters you “know.”
I think it’s dangerous though when you rely on those experiences for your feelings. You start to believe that if you’re not watching the best movie, or listening to the perfect song, or reading all the same crap that everyone else is reading, you’re failing. On a level deeper than that, if you’re not having the time of your life, well, then you should be! I don’t think I should be having the time of my life all the time. It’s good to feel sad. It’s good to feel angry. It’s good to just embrace what you’re feeling and roll with that.
I was surprised that I still felt pretty good coming up to the end of the race. The house that was playing Stevie Wonder before was now playing the Beatles’ “Revolution.” That was one of the first songs I really enjoyed running to. I decided to sing along. I wasn’t loud, but I heard myself sing. I felt a little silly, but I also felt great. I think I’d look a lot more stupid if I was singing to something that only I could hear.
I achieved my goal by finishing in under an hour. That felt really awesome. It was also really cool to see people cheering for something I enjoy doing. Right after the race, a young man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I had run the race. He said congratulations and shook my hand. I was impressed. It made me feel great for the rest of the day.