Running On It

I was reading @ednapiranha blog about her tips on running and recall that I wanted to write something about running in my blog for quite some time now.

Don't worry, this is not going to be yet another lose-some-weight improve-your-health post like the millions you'd find on the internet if you search for running. I won't distill tips or hints on how to run either - the topic is covered at 150% on the internet. (That said, if you want to talk about this topic, I can speak about it for hours.)

It's just my story on how running became a fundamental activity in my life - and I think some people that are in the Mozilla & Python community can relate to what happened to me.

Lost body

Last summer I was in San Francisco for some work at our Mozilla headquarters and as usual I was enjoying the city in the evenings with some friends - trying to taste all the good things to eat and drink this part of the world has to offer.

I have to say the beers are marvelous around the bay area, but after (quite) a few of them my nose started to bleed. I was not that worried, San Franscico can be quite dry sometime, and with all the plane travelling I suppose the nose skin gets very sensitive.

But it bled for 2 days non-stop - no matter how many tissue I was sticking in it. At some point I really freaked out and went to the hospital to check on it. I thought I had some vein issue and I really thought I was dying somehow, my body felt like it was simply going to stop working and my heart stop at any point.

I sat in the waiting room for over 4 hours in the evening and was seated with some homeless people and some other people that were in a very bad shape. One guy was in some kind of drug delirium and scared the crap out of me.

One sad thing I've notice was that most of the homeless that were seated in the waiting room were there just to be seated in a warm place for a while. At some point a couple of people from some kind of organization came to pick all of them to try to bring them to a shelter or something. But you could see they wanted to stay in that hospital waiting room rather than going to another place.

After 4 hours I saw a doctor and that lasted for around 5mn. It was just a typical nose bleeding that happens when the air is very dry. And drinking alcoholic beverages will expand your veins, making the bleeding harder to stop.

When I got back home after a few days I was still a bit shocked by this event: I realized I had lost my body over the years.

My body was not something I owned anymore. It just became a transport for all the food and drinks I wanted my brain to taste. It was just a tool to walk from point A to point B. The hardware to type on a keyboard and look at a screen from most of my days.

I realized that my body had limits I was not really worried about. It was trying to cope with my lifestyle excesses.


After that incident I gave a break to my body for a few months.

No more drinking, healthier food, more sleep etc. I felt great of course, but knew this would not last for ever - I don't want to live like a monk and I want to enjoy most things in life.

I started to run around that time. I started to run every other day and it became obvious that running would help me have a more balanced life. Some weeks I run every day.

When I run, my body becomes a first class citizen. It gets all my attention and I rarely listen to some music. I just listen to my breathing and focus on how my legs and arms move. After a while I am able to reach a state where I don't think about anything else than my run.

Reaching this state takes at least 20 minutes. It turns out that's usually the warm up time needed before a race or a practice. After 20 minutes, your body has fully reached its abilities to run and is ready to sustain a long effort. There are a lot of studies that explain how the body switches to more sustainable energy sources after a while and what chemicals are generated by your brain so you can cope with the run. It's quite fascinating.

Running also became the best place for me to solve complex coding or design problems I can have at work. I guess it's mostly because when you run you can't get distracted by all the things that are distracting us on a screen - that forces us to do a lot of context switching.

Being a remote worker, I now organize my working day around my running sessions - if I am banging my head on a tough issue I am now running on it :)

There's one interesting read about all of this: Murakami's essay on running What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I can relate to a lot of things he wrote there.

I don't think I am going to stop running anytime soon, I have never felt that way before: balanced.

It looks like I was doing the Maslow hierarchy of needs a little bit up-side-down until now ;)