The Luxury of Running

Yesterday, I left my usual turf — Lake Merritt — and went toward the Oakland Hills. For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Oakland Hills are where the city’s 1% reside: beautiful houses with professionally manicured lawns. For runners, it also offers hills (duh), well-maintained sidewalks, and little-to-no traffic stops. As I was slogging my way up a particularly hilly street, I crossed paths with two immigrant gardeners unloading their tools, ready to start their day. We exchanged glances. I couldn’t help but feel a tremendous amount of guilt that, here I was, running for exercise, while they were about to devote their bodies to a day of physical labor. It wasn’t “white guilt” since I’m not white… but maybe more like “socio-economic guilt”?

I’ve always felt a tremendous amount of gratitude when I run. Two leg surgeries (ACL and ankle hardware) and their subsequent recovery periods have made me eternally grateful for being able to ambulate without any significant problems. But yesterday’s incident revealed to me that I should also be grateful for having the time to run. It’s a real luxury. It’s also one that comes with a price (literally), as it’s part of the reason why I chose a part-time job, so that I could have flexibility in my schedule. Now, I’m not comparing myself to the runners who have to make real sacrifices to run — those who wake up at the break of dawn or go running late into the evening because that’s the only time they can run, or parents who have to find a babysitter before they can head out the door. I guess my point is that, as a runner, I often take it for granted that anyone can run any time, anywhere, and at little or no cost. But there is an inherent luxury in being able to have the time to run, and I felt very aware of it yesterday.

What do you think? Do you feel gratitude when you run? What about guilt?



Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

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4 comments on “The Luxury of Running
  1. Dominick S. says:

    Don’t feel guilt about being able to run and don’t concern yourself with the people that have to wake up at the crack of dawn or run after work (that’s me by the way). We all choose our own path. You are right that some people are afforded better opportunities than others but no matter what everyone has to take advantage of them.

    I guess I feel more thankful than guilty that I have had more opportunities than someone who grew up in a different part of town but thats the great thing about America, everyone can move up or down in society. My parents both grew up poor and worked their way into the middle class. My grandpa was a mill worker and eventually a gardener and his hard work set a great example for my father. Those two gardeners may not have been immigrants, they may have just grown up with less opportunity and that was the trade that they chose. Either way, they could be supporting a family full of people that will go on to do great things.

    You are very lucky to have the opportunity to run and be outdoors during the day in the middle of the week…focus on that and just be thankful, not guilt ridden. I think it is good that you are aware of your circumstance and do not take it for granted!

  2. Nicole says:

    I have similar thoughts when I run past people asking for change on the street. In a world where so many lack food security (and not even the proverbial “starving children in China”, but right here in Oakland), I have such an abundance that I can consume and burn more fuel recreationally? I don’t know if it’s right, but it’s certainly not fair. On a micro scale, though, I’m not sure that the solution is for everyone to function on the lowest level, but instead to enjoy what we have, while understanding that the resources and privilege and power that we enjoy should also be directed to helping give others the choices we have. Because, really, I know plenty of people who do physical labor for their jobs, and feel sorry for me being cooped up in an office all day. But, I love my inside job, they love their outside jobs, so instead of guilt or shame at our differences, I’m just happy that we’ve each found something that we can enjoy doing.

  3. MR DETERMINED says:

    I feel graditude every time I run. I’m still working on finding out what is going on with my knees. I know people who are not able to run either because of injuries that aren’t reversable. So each time my body works with me, I mentally thank it. Especially when my run is getting hard and I can see my body is still coping….I think “thank you legs, thank you knees, thank you body for working together so I can enjoy this run”. Thinking this graditude makes me feel at peace with the slight guilt that I those people that are too injuried to run…would love to do it if they could.

  4. Jen says:

    Thanks for everyone’s thoughtful comments. It’s interesting to read how everyone approaches things in a different way. I’m definitely on board with just being grateful for each run that I can do and enjoy!

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