Some kids can't wait to grow up. They yearn for freedom from the rules and strictures imposed on them by their parental units. Unfortunately, there is usually an inordinate amount of responsibility associated with the 'freedom' of adulthood.
I yearned to liberate myself from my parents as a kid, but I wouldn't say I loved the idea of being an adult. My parents seemed at least vaguely if not markedly stressed about any number of things most of the time. Freedom didn't look terribly free to me.
My dad seemed to work his ass off all the time. He didn't seem miserable, but I never got the impression he loved what he was doing. Mom's existence seemed harried. She had 3 kids to corral and a myriad of household tasks to manage. Her plate was perpetually full, if not overflowing. Being an adult seemed like an enormous pain in the ass to me.
The stress my parents were dealing with washed over into my life as well. As a kid, I was confronted with plenty of 'adult' issues in our household. I wouldn't fall back on the cliche that I 'didn't have a childhood', but it did feel like my childhood was somewhat abbreviated or compromised. There are a reasonable number of my childhood memories that aren't exactly sunshine and roses.
Like many who find themselves confronted with issues they can't quite comprehend or process, I sought escape. I found myself escaping via the movies, initially. I was enthralled by the vivid alternate worlds projected onto the silver screen that I often found myself craving to be a part of, but knowing the real world was sadly just 120 minutes away.
In my teens, I found another form of escapism. I would throw on a pair of running shoes and hit the road. I was putting literal and metaphorical distance between myself and the adult issues that seemed to color many aspects of my life.
Ultimately, it was in these minutes and miles I spent on the road that I would feel most like a child. Unlike at home, I was in complete control on the road. I could run as far or as fast as I wanted and I was the only one who could stop me. I felt a lightness when I was running. I felt young. This was true freedom.
Unlike many forms of escapism, running provided more than just an 'escape'. I felt clearer and more comfortable in my own skin when I finished my run. I would have moments of clarity and insight during my runs. Sometimes I would find answers to my problems. I discovered that running may be the one of the most productive forms of escapism out there.
I don't have any illusions that I am still a kid. I'm confronted with the reality of being an adult (or pretending to be one) every day. But, if I'm lucky, I get to log a few miles each day and when everything's clicking, I feel like the fifteen year old version of myself who is putting his shoes on for the very first time. I feel young again.
Earlier this year a study was released that effectively characterized running as a veritable fountain of youth. Running in fact slows the aging process. This didn't surprise me. I've always known this on some level. I run because I am young at heart.