EDITOR’S NOTE: This post winds a bit. The music is towards the end if you want to skip the rest.
While I am no longer located in the Alabama and feel very much the Bitter Southerner, there are some tastes I can’t (and won’t!) change:
- I get wistful when the song “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd plays.
- My taste in food and drink (I’ll take my tea sweet, please).
- Forrest Gump will forever be one of my favorite movies.
Now that I have lived many places, I feel safe (with caveats) saying that the contemporary South gets a bad rap. Much of what people hear is the “squeaky wheel” of the South– the loudest folks aren’t always the plurality or the majority. From personal experience, it is hard to be “different” in the South and feel okay speaking up about it because of the squeaky wheels. While I high-tailed it to Chicago, many of my more progressive friends stayed and are speaking out and making a difference in Alabama.
It has taken me a long time to learn this and come to terms with this Southern part of me. Growing up, we weren’t taught about too many figures to be proud of in school (DISCLAIMER: There have been many GREAT Alabamians, but they get lost in the shuffle of bad Alabamians and bad Alabama history). So many of my favorite Alabamians came from works of fiction like the wonderful book To Kill A Mockingbird and, of course, the wonderful book turned film Forrest Gump.
What is to love about the movie version of Forrest Gump? For one, the soundtrack is great and MASSIVE. My sister had the soundtrack on c.d., and I believe it was 2-4 discs. However, there is also a lot to love about the main character: from a poor boy from a single parent home overcomes learning and physical disabilities to become a college football player, war hero, and shrimp tycoon, Forrest Gump teaches us to, at the very least, try. And damn if he can do it, so can any of us!
I also admire that his story tells of several different phases of life. The phase that always struck me the most was the Forrest’s running phase.
Running was a theme throughout Forrest Gump. As a boy, he runs to escape bullies. As a teen, he ran to escape the same bullies. As a college student, he runs as a football player at the University of Alabama. As a troop in Vietnam, he runs to save the lives of his comrades and ends Lt. Dan ancestral deathwish. And finally, as an adult, Forrest deals with his heartbreak after Jenny leaves him in the night.
After running across the country for three years, Forrest finally stops. Running went from a primal tool of escape from predators for Forrest to a form of escapism, processing, and therapy.
Finally, an exhausted Forrest announces he is tired and returns home. Were there problems to work out? Yes, but maybe Forrest found peace and worked through some problems.
Running for three years is an excessive way to work out your feelings, but running is a scientifically proven to
- Be more relaxing than meditation (15+ minute run).
- Improve depression and anxiety.
- Prepares your brain to “think ahead” and solve problems.
There are a slew of other benefits to running that are scientifically proven, and I appreciate that so much because science is king. The scientific points I posted above are the ones I am most focused on right now. With the pandemic, political instability, rampant narcissism, a family, friends I treasure dearly, work, school, a massively annoying writing hobby, and a tendency to get stuck in my own head, running helps me from becoming my own worst enemy.
I have been running actively since I was 12. I started off with track and field (yay) and then picked up cross-country (boo). I ran both through majority of middle school and high school– mainly doing well in middle distance. It was consuming, and I loved it. But I needed to know there was life outside of that hobby. I found out that, yes! There is life outside of running. 🙂 I continued running (for fun and health) in college and beyond. I was never much of a distance runner, but I did it for so long solely to manage my anxiety and, admittedly, maintain a hot bod. Now that I am not getting any younger, I am more focused on my own health– physical and mental.
With age, I focus less on running and more on lifting weights. However, the pandemic has made weight lifting a challenge. After my gym closed because of The Covids, I tried body weight workouts. I even got a pull up bar, but I have felt supremely uncomfortable doing this in a confined space that I am also working and living in. I also create a massive amount of heat. There was only one option: start running again.
Haters will say it’s fake, but the runner’s high is real which is why I keep doing it…20 years later (geez lord that’s nuts). I have often felt the vicious cycle of depression (thanks genetics), and I would tell my friends or other folks that suffer the same if you can do any one thing, I recommend walking, jogging, or running (and proper sleep). The depression, anxiety, and sleep might need help from a medical professional, but even with that help, running is effective. I think Forrest Gump felt all of this on his long runs.
Finding the motivation to run is difficult, especially when you are in the dumps. However, there are two things that usually get me going:
- Setting a timer- Some people might want to run for distance or to a certain landmark. I find I do better if I have a time (currently just 30 minutes). It is an easier baseline for me and pushes me more than running for distance does. I use the Adidas Runtastic Running app which gives you your pace per mile, which is great!
- A PLAYLIST– Come on. You know I wasn’t going to write this whole post without delivering the goods.
Since 2016, I have created 10 running playlists specifically for running. They are in different states of completion. There are duplicates on the lists (because these are the songs I find help me run most effectively). So, forgive me for the disarray, but to quote this meme man “It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.
I’m going to share half of those playlists right now. As I have begun making a new one quarterly, these are from the past year. I will go in reverse chronological order and post one song per playlist:
This is my latest running playlist. There are some old standbys on this (Rodrigo y Gabriela and Rage Against the Machine), but one very COVIDy track is The I.L.Y’s “Wash My Hands Shorty”.
This instance of the running playlists took a strange turn because I was not feeling so great. So going through it kind of makes my tummy hurt. However, here is a tune from Death From Above 1979 that is a good one:
This playlist was also made during a weird time. For a brief period of time, I was taking tap dancing classes. I would listen to this playlist both running and going back and forth to tap. I would often listen to this song on repeat:
This playlist is a bit more…normal: extensive, diverse, etc. It was also developed over months (probably because the weather was warmer, and I was more active).
I love this song so much and haven’t felt able to listen to it for a few months. However, I am still super into it after listening to it for this post:
While Forrest Gump had a great soundtrack to back-up an inspiring character, I also need my own motivational music while I heal my own mind and body with running. As I finish up this post, I found myself thinking of running as transcendent without even remembering the meditation connection. It’s true– if you push and will it, running is transcendent. I often feel among the moon and stars while doing.
I have another 5 running-specific playlists that are a bit less organized. I will share those in another post sometime.
If you read this and have songs you like to run, workout to, or that you think would be good for either, I would love to hear them. I would also love to hear any Forrest Gump, running & mental illness, or just general running stories.