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Putting In The Miles: On Being an Autistic Runner

This blog was written by a guest blogger, Jesse Timm.

If you would like to learn more about Jesse, visit Jesse's blog at .

Stasis appeals to me. But for me, stasis does not imply static. Stasis for me is simply a

self-sustaining and predictable state that consistently holds over a perceptually

meaningful period of time. Stasis is my preferred state of being. It matters only slightly

whether the point of stasis is experientially pleasant or unpleasant, only that it's stable.

And if things are going to change (and things are certainly going to change), I prefer they

do so gradually.

Let's Go on an Adventure!

And it's this experience of stasis that has me running, always running, as often as I can

and then a little more. A few days ago, a friend of mine hit me up to see if I was busy

over the weekend and, if not, would I want to go for a run while he rode his new bike

along with me?

Of course I was down. His bike had carrying capacity beyond my wildest dreams on any

solo excursion so we would be practically limitless with our possible mileage. I wanted at

least twenty miles over the weekend and, because we had enough storage capacity for

substantial caloric sustenance, I was only at the mercy of my level of fitness and not any

added encumbrances like a hydration pack or handheld water bottle. We planned on an

out and back along the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, WA where we’d have miles of

paved trail to traverse.

Of the myriad reasons I love running, the augmentation of my experience of time is high

on the list. It's not so much that time slows down or speeds up—it's kind of both and kind

of neither. A better way to describe it might be, while running, time seems to lose

subjective meaning; I know that time is a concept we use to delineate then from now, and

I know that when I stop running it will be later than when I started, but while it's

happening, a run is only immediate. It is happening right now and only right now.

The City's Hustle and Bustle

Unlike the largely unbroken mileage of trail like the Burke-Gilman, though, the rest of

my life is more akin to running through a city street with frequent, poorly timed traffic

intersections, inconvenient for all parties involved. Innumerable transitions great and

small are regular features of modern life. For me, those features are also bugs. The

modern world is a world full of noise and hurry. This can affect many aspects of life, like going to the grocery store or surviving another workday or trying to decompress when taking a shower.

And irrespective of how invasive the transition I must embark upon in a given moment—whether it's small like exiting a chair or large like moving to a new apartment—all those transitory states are wildly taxing, both individually and in sum. And the busier my external surroundings (or internal stress), the more I feel the eyes of time upon me; the gaze feels punitive rather than kind.

Arresting one's momentum at a crosswalk during a red light while running through town

is so much harder than simply proceeding undeterred. Ceasing motion is painful. But

once the body is at rest during the space between red and green, resuming motion again

can be even more painful, depending on how much energy one has left. While in motion,

though, I can go seemingly forever. Too many transitions—too many intersections—and

my energy implodes, cutting whatever endurance I may have had dramatically short.

Monotropic Flow

In a life full of transitions, only running allows me a brief reprieve from the

overwhelming malaise happening at all times everywhere else I exist. Running allows me

rest, a mindful reprieve from the delirium of consciousness. Sleep rejuvenates my body;

running rejuvenates my soul.

When engaging with their interests, many autistic people like myself experience a state of

Flow known as "monotropic focus." For me, when this happens, I experience it as

ecstatic joy—intense, uncontainable, and inexpressible euphoria.

This is what running is for me. I don't run for fitness. I don't run for health or competition

or physique or any other derived benefit. I run for the love of running, and the sensory

experience it allows. Running is both the means and the end.

I love pleasant runs where I feel like a nearly boundless demigod who never tires no

matter the mileage. And I love such a run's despondent, dour cousin who holds for me

nothing but hours of abject suffering from end to end, where regret and gratitude coexist

in mutual tension. I have never had a bad run.

On that weekend with my friend biking alongside me as we traveled along the Burke-

Gilman Trail, we covered around 32 miles, just for fun. But whether I'm running 30+

miles or fewer than 2, I'm no more or less grateful for either. In a world where the

neurological deck is socially stacked against us autistic folks, having an escape into

something as all consuming as running is like a cognitive oasis in a vast desert of

Sisyphean fatigue.

So I keep putting in the miles.

Where's Your Flow?

What is your escape? Is it in a physical activity, like running, roller skating, or martial arts? Is it in a creative outlet, like graphic design or wood-burning? Are there any social engagements you have that you find rejuvenating, such as a D&D campaign?

Whatever your escape is, our life coaches can help you manage your time so you can engage in your special interest. And if you don't have an escape yet, our life coaches can help you narrow down a few options you want to try!

Contact us to learn how life coaching can help you invest in yourself.

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