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Some Thoughts on Running

Or, Some Thoughts on Moving Too Much When Not Necessary

By Kendall Defoe Published 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 7 min read
Top Story - July 2023
Some Thoughts on Running
Photo by Andrea Leopardi on Unsplash

This is the confession of an addict.

I will admit that I have spent a lot of time not writing about my love of jogging, or running (both words mean different things to me; I will explain them later). Running was one of the things in my life that I came to completely under my own power. It was never something that I was encouraged to do. I never did track and field in school (never even made it onto a team of any kind). I saw no one in my family who enjoyed going for a run. And it was not something that I ever suspected would change my life.

But it has.

I had better give a personal history lesson on this one.

My teenage years were not ones that I would want to relive for all the money in Elon Musk’s back pocket. My father passed away when I was ten, and I overcompensated for the pain with food. By the time I started high school, I could not bear to look at myself in a mirror; I did not date; I started to lose friends who were deeply devoted to sports that I no longer cared about; and I was taking courses that I had no talent or skill with (math and science). Of all of the above, the one thing that concerned me the most was my weight: I just could not stop eating. And I could not listen to the ones who wanted to ‘help’ me. I was stuck in a vicious circle of my own waistline.

So, why running?

By Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

The other thing I noted was the fact that I had no access to a car in our neat little suburban hell. I walked everywhere to do everything: to the mall, the bus stops, the library. I would use my brother’s mountain or ten-speed bikes while I could (he soon moved out). But my feet were my main form of transport. If anything happened to them, I was in serious trouble. So, of course something happened to them.


I had no idea that someone so young and stupid about calories could get that disease. I did not even know what it was until one day I was flipping channels and heard a character in a television program complaining about swollen joints and the agony in their toes and fingers. They also mentioned how walking and jogging could help with controlling the symptoms.

A light went off in my fat head. I decided to finally use the local park for more than just a short cut to my weekly snacking at the mall. There were two large soccer fields that were unoccupied at night and I made a plan: I would begin by trying to cross the field from goal to goal. This was something I mapped out carefully and it was lucky that I did it when it was too dark for my behaviour to be critiqued. The cramping and leg pain I went through that night was an exquisite agony unlike anything I had felt since my father’s passing.

And I did not give up.

By Emma Simpson on Unsplash

I checked on when I was eating my meals (I am now a morning runner and try to have no more than water, protein shakes and the occasional granola bar). I wore the loosest and most appropriate clothes I had for the summer. And I went right back to that pitch. From one run, I soon ended up doing two sprints…then three and four. Finally, I ran around the entire field. Then I covered both fields…the park…and finally, the streets. By the time I was in my twenties, I felt comfortable enough with it to run in Toronto when I was student; in Tokyo as a teacher; and eventually in Montréal as both a student and teacher.

But it is an addiction. Not one that I could give up if I tried. Every run seems like another challenge and I would not have it any other way. What goes through my mind is a lot tougher than anything I could ever do to my body. Therefore, most people I have invited for a run have declined. One other thing that gets to me is how much locale influences the type of run I will have. In suburbia, I feel like there are eyes on me, even when I was still living at home and could be surrounded by family. In parks, you feel competitive and willing to speed past people who just wanted to walk their dogs or let their children run free near the jungle gyms and sand pits. I have been inspired and depressed by what I have been surrounded by (other runners and my environment). It is all a part of the process.

Now, as a contributor to Vocal, you might be wondering if it does have an influence on my occasional scribbles.

Indeed, it does.

By Ashlyn Ciara on Unsplash

After a good run at one of the many parks nearby, I find that my mind is focused and that ideas I had not developed suddenly become sharp and clear. And I am beginning to agree more and more with the advice I heard from Stephen King on notebooks: don’t use them. They are “the best way in the world to immortalize bad ideas” (a hard thing to hear for a devotee of stationery). And it is true that I never really plot much anymore. I just sit and write.

Sitting and writing... Writers are odd creatures. We all have different methods of getting the words on the page. Some stand and write (Hemingway). Some go to the paper and pen first (Toni Morrison). Some drink and eat too much and pound their heads on the wall until something comes out (the rest of us). There are not that many examples of great scribblers throughout history who have put on a pair of running shoes and hit the pavement. It is a life that encourages both loneliness and pain (in both running and writing). This is why Haruki Murakami for me is such an incredible role model.

By Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

I have a well-read copy of his “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running,” his memoir of a life devoted to both the page and the road. The man, for twenty-five plus years, runs every single day – a near marathon, at least to me - and I wondered what kind of advice he would give to those of us who are devoted the physical and the written. Here is one passage that stood out to me:

“No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes contemplative, even a meditative act. As a writer, then, as a runner, I don’t find that writing and publishing a book of my own thoughts about running makes me stray too far off my usual path. Perhaps I’m just too painstaking a type of person, but I can’t grasp much of anything without putting down my thoughts in writing, so I had to actually get my hands working and write these words. Otherwise, I’d never know what running means to me.”

I agree with most of this, perhaps diverging from the idea that I cannot grasp things without writing them down (Stephen must be right), but this is the truth about both actions: one feeds into the other. I cannot imagine my life without the page and my feet guiding me toward certain trails and paths.

I cannot wait to get back out there again.

But first, I need to write...

It can, you know...


Thank you for reading!

If you liked this, you can add your Insights, Comment, leave a Heart, Tip, Pledge, or Subscribe. I will appreciate any support you have shown for my work.

You can find more poems, stories, and articles by Kendall Defoe on my Vocal profile. I complain, argue, provoke and create...just like everybody else.

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About the Creator

Kendall Defoe

Teacher, reader, writer, dreamer... I am a college instructor who cannot stop letting his thoughts end up on the page. Very grateful to have found this other opportunity to expose things to the light.


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Comments (27)

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  • Syed Hussnain ALi Shah9 days ago

    My emotions are pouring out 😎😎😎

  • Oksana Z.2 months ago

    Running was a powerful assistant in my experience of assisting family in a contrasting (war state) circumstance. Your share is bringing forth in me the inspire to write about addictions as I came to know them - powerful tools to assist with one’s evolution, if one remembers to be the driver and creator of it all - from the very grandness to the very detail 🍭 thank you for this multifaceted share ✨

  • Veronica Coldiron2 months ago

    What an encouraging story! I love that you found what you love and that writing is also part of that! GREAT article! 😊

  • Lawanda Fewell2 months ago

    I can only imagine how difficult this time must be for you and your family. losing a loved one is never easy, and the pain can feel overwhelming. However, I want to commend you, Kendall, for your incredible strength and resilience. Being a runner requires not only physical endurance but also mental fortitude. It's inspiring to see that you have carried this mindset into other aspects of your life, especially during such challenging times. Your positive and determined attitude is a testament to your character and the strength within you. Thanks for sharing!

  • Running is great! No matter the conditions, I always tend to get out and do some running, however, I tweaked my knee a couple months back in Saudi Arabia doing a long run (20 km). You may also be interested in this story: https://vocal.media/motivation/outpacing-negativity Thanks for your story.

  • Tina D'Angelo2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing. This, however, does not induce a desire for running in my 69-year-old body. I tried that once and dislocated my toe putting on my running shoes.

  • Jazzy Gonçalves 2 months ago

    Def need to read never finished by David goggins! 🖤🖤🖤 great read thnks for sharing!

  • NooNs routes2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your nice story with us

  • Donna Fox2 months ago

    Kendall I really appreciate you sharing your story with us, it gives great insight to your process and the person you became. Not to mention it helps us envision what fuels you to write, which is a cool insight to have! I've never been much of a runner, even when I played sports in high school and post secondary. I ended up pulling my groin really badly and have never been able to take it up again or see if I have an interest in it. But you make it sound enlightening and freeing for the mind, which is a perspective I never considered before! Great work and congratulations on Top Story for this one!

  • Mark Gagnon2 months ago

    I'm afraid Pichle Ball and a torn meniscus have put an end to any future running. Spending time in the gym with fellow gym rats does help with writing ideas along with vocal and a writers group. I enjoyed your story!

  • Kristen Balyeat3 months ago

    Great read, Kendall! Your story is very inspirational! Proud of your determination– starting by putting one foot in front of the other and moving up from there. So awesome! I LOVE RUNNING! I do feel the same, it’s an addiction. I used to run every day, but my knees are not kind to me anymore, so I switched to cycling. I do a LOT of writing while I’m moving my body. The ideas just roll in while I’m being active. Really great piece and massive admiration for the way you just decided to change your life..and then did. 👏🏽

  • Running is something I also do, not for racing, but for survival of my soul and it makes me feel good. However, sometimes the old body just does not keep up with the brain and therefore, it seems to be hit and miss. I have to continue to find alternate ways to exercise if my running legs are giving me a hard time.

  • James U. Rizzi3 months ago

    Yes this is so poignant, I found running and jogging in my later years and boxing I was sick and tired, of being sick and tired I really buckled down and just started incrementally like yourself probably pushed it to hard honestly. Currently going through a bout of pain who knew the thing I’d miss so much would be running in the sweltering heat lol thank you for sharing well done

  • C. H. Richard3 months ago

    Thankyou for sharing your journey with running and then your connection to writing. I think most forms of exercise can really get our juices growing as writers. For me it is walking and my Zumba classes. Not sure what is but after Zumba class I can park my car at a local coffee shop and write. I would have disagree with Stephen King about writing in a notebook. I still feel the need to write down a poem, expression or short story while thinking of it. Sometimes on the back of envelope or bill and sometimes an old fashioned notebook. Great article and congratulations on Top Story ❤️

  • Totally agree that running clears our mind! Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Your thoughts are inspiring and motivating!!! Wonderful read!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!!♥️♥️💕

  • Real Poetic3 months ago

    I related to this so much that it inspired me to write. Keep writing and inspiring others. Congratulations 🎉

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    Very inspiring piece with a ton side notes that all lead to who you are today. I used to have a treadmill but it doesn’t compare to the joy and satisfaction of getting out there to run. Thanks for sharing.

  • Andy Potts3 months ago

    Nice write-up. I tend to find walking helps more with my writing, and running helps me to keep my head straight. But I totally get what you're saying about how running in different places feels different. That's why I enjoy visiting different parkruns in my area and trying different routes each weekend. Love some variety.

  • Dana Crandell3 months ago

    Congratulations on your courage, determination and focus! Running and walking are both contemplative experiences for me, which is one of the reasons I love fly fishing. Until I get back to the places where that's a possibility, I settle for Pam and I walking/running the dogs at the park and an exercise bike that's staring at me as I type this.

  • Dana Stewart3 months ago

    You’re a disciplined creative, and I’m not at all surprised. I was surprised to read that you lived in Tokyo. That’s a lot of people! In my heyday I was an athlete, played softball. We use to run laps everyday. But after a crushed ankle, collapsed knee, and pins holding my ball and socket hip joint in place effectively ended my running aspirations. Now I do yoga. I enjoyed reading about your process!

  • Naomi Gold3 months ago

    I was SO excited when I read this title. I’ve been wanting to write about my connection between running and writing, and how running is my entire creative process. I just write down everything later that emerged during my runs. But I haven’t been ready to write about it. Too many other things on the forefront of my mind. So yeah, I was really excited to read your thoughts on this and see how they compare with mine. But then, I got more than I expected. More than I dared to hope for. I got this well written confession about why you started running in the first place. This is my favorite thing I’ve read and received from you. This story is a gift. Joyce Carol Oates is a runner who gets all her best ideas from running. I found that interesting, because she’s an insanely prolific author while being a professor at Princeton. How does a human do that?

  • Ashley Lima3 months ago

    I wish I loved running, and I absolutely loved the way you related it to your craft. Really interesting story, thank you for sharing a peak into your life.

  • Leslie Writes3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this story. I strive for that mind-body connection. It really does help the ideas flow!

  • Scott Christenson3 months ago

    A pleasant journey through your path into running. The spirit of your essay reminds me a bit of Murakami. So many runners I know have loved that book. I also do a bit of running, and after a run I feel i finally burnt off my default high level of anxiety and stress, and can relax and read a book or do some writing.

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