Running has brought incredible health and emotional benefits to my life. It helps me maintain my weight, keeps my body strong and probably most importantly gives me a mental outlet for working through frustrations, disappointments, and problems. It would have been hard for me to understand 5 years ago, but now I completely relate to the notion that running brings happiness to the runners life. When I fail to run at least 3 times a week I feel rather blue, unsettled and fidgety. Particularly when I run in the morning I start my day off with a sense of accomplishment and vigour for the day.
As my running became more regular I encountered opinions from friends that I was taking away from my family time, social time and productive work time to pursue this passion. While the comments weren't particularly aggressive they certainly shocked me when I heard them. The subtle suggestion was that I was less of a father or husband because I devoted several hours a week toward fitness. I was unavailable for my family. When first I encountered this opinion (usually proffered to others when I wasn't around) I felt somewhat guilty like maybe it was true. I've come to realize over time that it is of course complete idiocy.
In our modern world we have parents that work 60 hours a week dedicating their energy and passion toward careers at the expense of home time. We have parents and spouses that come home and plop on the sofa for endless hours of television, mindless eating all while simultaneously surfing the internet on their smartphone. People run out to activities with friends involving drinking, fried foods and partying all away from their spouse or children. All of these activities promote poor health, unhealthy relationships and serve to set the example for our children that life is meant to live overworked, undernourished and addicted to mindless entertainment. Yet living at work, being 60 pounds overweight and emotionally stressed bears less criticism than the pursuit of health. The norm of behaviour in our society is completely out of whack.
It's when someone steps out of that norm and pursues an irregular activity in their social circle that they receive criticism. My love of running has made me a more compassionate father, has helped me focus at work, has helped me to be a healthy role model for my daughter and most importantly has made me happy. I ask you how a beer swilling workaholic that ignores their family when home because they are too tired and unhealthy to participate fully with those around them wins parent or spouse of the year as compared to someone that spends 10 hours a week jogging around their neighbourhood.
My attempts at meditation and ignoring others natural rush to judgement are intermittently successful. Yet even last week I was met with an innocent comment from a friend that asked "is it ok with your wife that you run this much?" Let me promise you, it is. And I'm ok that she runs as well. She wouldn't want me to be the unhealthy, tired, unhappy person I was 3 years ago again. The idea that I can be around for a long time to watch my daughter grow, and become an adult is very appealing. The notion that I'll have the health and fitness to one day play with grandchildren (should she ever choose to have kids) and to enjoy my senior years with my wife vibrantly and energetically is fantastic. Hopefully I'm setting a better example for my daughter than I did when my time away from my family was pub runs for beer and chicken wings. Letting her see her father as healthy, trim, fit and happy may possibly (hopefully) give her the bias toward finding a similarly vibrant partner in her adult life.
If you're a runner or recreational athlete, embrace it. Understand that the time you invest in yourself brings a return investment on the people you love. You'll be more engaged with them and setting a fantastic example. In the meantime I'll keep working on realizing that others criticism has more to do with their own self loathing than a genuine concern with my time commitment to my family.