When Running: It’s Okay to Stop and Walk

I’ve been running for a while. Both physically and figuratively. But I’ll focus on the latter another time. Well, maybe.

I ran cross country and track in high school. Have continued running for pleasure ever since, and I even completed a half-marathon this spring. I love running. Running offers my physical blood the benefit of pumping a little faster and my introverted blood the chance to unwind.

I love running, but I think I love running too much sometimes. Too much to stop and walk.

Finishing my first-half marathon

I still remember my first 5K race. I was in 9th grade, and I took off from cross country that year. I wanted to continue running on my own, so me and my dad entered this road race together. It was my first experience running 3.1 miles with a running clock and fellow “competitors.”

That race killed me.

I started out so fast, and by the midpoint I was more exhausted than I’d ever been in 14 years. I wanted to stop and walk so badly. Can still hear those manic cries inside me: Stop. You need to stop. You cannot keep running for another mile like this. What are you doing??

And yet despite the brutal intensity of those voices, I could not bring myself to stop. To walk. To quit. Sure, I could have still “finished the race,” but walking for any stretch of that 5K would’ve completely tarnished the achievement.

I wouldn’t be able to say I “ran” my first 5K. I’d forever have to say I ran and walked in my first 5K; should just exchange my running bib for a baby’s bib.

Stopping to walk just wasn’t an option. My “run” might have eventually slowed to a slothy jog, but I never stopped. My finishing time was still horrible, but the triumph of not stopping to walk was worth far more.

For years, stopping meant quitting. Giving up. Utter weakness. Both in the running world and in other non-physical facets of my life.

Believe me, I’m the epitome of a non-macho guy. Arnold’s on one side; I’m distantly on the other. And yet I get such a macho complex sometimes. Can’t bear the thought of stopping, quitting something, anything because I’ll be seen as weak. Or maybe worse, I’ll see myself that way and hate myself forever for it.

Sure, stopping can indeed be a bad decision in the long-run, despite any immediate breaths of oxygen in the short-term.

But sometimes, you really do need to stop and walk. “Smell the roses,” or whatever you wanna call it.

Sometimes in life you need to do much more than simply slow down. You need to stop.

I need to stop.

This revelation manifested itself recently during a sunset run along the Santa Ana River. I started running like I always do. Just like any ordinary run on any other ordinary day in which I ordinarily never consider stopping.

And then I stopped. Just stopped.

Physically, I was fine. From personal experience, I surely could’ve maintained that pace for at least 13.1 miles.

But mentally, I was a mess. Normally running allows me to unwind and untangle any chaos in my head. But not this time. Not this run.

This time, the knot only tightened the further I ran. The harder I ran, the more it pulled. Eventually I reached a mental overload moment.

So I stopped. Stopped to walk. Something that hardly ever happens.

This stopping phenomenon actually happened while running a couple weeks ago too. I’d accidentally turned down a wrong path, and I accidentally added an extra hour to my intended workout. By the end, I was physically exhausted.

Normally my hidden macho complex emerges in these moments and tells me I cannot dare stop to walk. Even if this was just a mere personal run beyond the confines of a numbered bib and a ticking clock.

But for two of the maybe only times while running, I intentionally stopped to walk.

And truthfully, I discovered more than physical rest from these deliberate stops. I observed the mountains surrounding me, darkness silhouetting their rolling peaks beyond the wide valley. Red and white lights zipping below me on the 91. A warm breeze hitting my face.

Sometimes running is good. Running is great. “Just keep swimming” is a fantastic life-philosophy. Thank you, Ellen.

But sometimes you need to stop. Stop swimming. Stop running.

Just stop. And remember why it is you’re even running in the first place.

Because beauty and purpose surround us, smother us daily. And we miss it. I miss it.

And we need to run in such a way that the unspeakable bliss of silhouetted mountaintops and an ultimate finish line is realized by others.

Question: What’s one way you could slow down or even stop this week? I’ll answer first…

  • tmz

    I’m going to make an effort to get to bed earlier than usual this week (mainly for simple logical physical reasons), but I also want to wake up earlier than usual too. Want to spend those hallowed morning hours just listening to music or journaling or soaking in some Scripture. Time and time again my days are better when started this way, so it befuddles me why I’ve not established some sort of routine like this by now.

  • MLYaksh

    As one who has only recently been learning the art of walking (in the figurative stance, not the literal), I know exactly where you’re coming from. I have worked myself to complete exhaustion several times. One small thing I started doing was to get up earlier to do my devotions. I started that over a year ago and now can’t imagine life without that time. It’s so incredible.

    Of course I’m nowhere near a perfect “walker”, so I still need to find new ways to slow down. This week, I will take 20 minutes before bed to read my Bible. I need to find ways to calm myself down before bed- perhaps the Psalms can bring some rest.