Running, jogging, and sometimes just walking, have long been my partner in reflection. Running was with me when, as a tween, I accompanied my parents on their weekend exercises through our suburban, tree-lined neighborhood. It was with me in college, through snow and ice in winter and through warmth and gorge-side trails in summer, fall, and spring, through premed classes and study breaks. It was with me when my father—who had long asked me whether I ran “for speed or distance”in an effort to motivate me—diedjust prior to my graduation and transition to New York City for medical school.
I have been a jogger and a runner. At times, reluctant, enthusiastic, slow, lost in thought, lost, tired, fit, or lagging. I have been goal-oriented, and I have been aimless. I have been a runner who sought and found a new goal—completing a marathon—to accompany accomplishing another lofty aim—mastering the pathophysiology of my second year of medical school.
I have run for speed, rarely, and for distance, time permitting. I have run over bridges and back, through city streets with traffic-induced smog, in “unsafe” areas, in green parks, beside cornfields, on dirt paths, around oval tracks, and on treadmills. I have run to take a study break, to explore the neighborhoods where both my patients and I have lived. I have run to reflect during my liberal college town years, my urban medical school studies, and my pediatric residency readings, patients, and experiences. I have run post call and pre call. I have run alone, with my thoughts, with strangers, with students, with friends, and with family. I have run while listening to the news, to the birds, and to my music. I have run to escape death and to make sense of it.
Running came with me to Washington, DC, where I explored primary care pediatrics as a new attending in new surroundings. Running was still with me, but in a much more jogging–walking slow-paced sort of way, when I was pregnant, then when I pushed a baby stroller on parental leave from academic community-based general pediatrics. At about 60+ weeks postpartum, I began running with a rhythm again, reflecting on health care reform, on serving the underserved, and on all kids having a chance to grow up healthy. I run (or jog or walk) so that I am refreshed for real life as a mother, a spouse, a medical educator, and a pediatrician.
Running has been my constant in an ever-changing set of experiences. The tools and the time we use to reflect will differ among us. For some it will be running or walking, for others drawing or singing or writing. Whichever method one chooses for reflection, these wellness activities can prevent burnout and allow us to be fully present for our patients at work, for our families at home, and for our students during all learning opportunities. The key is to run to, not away from, these opportunities to reflect.
Terry Kind, MD, MPH
Dr. Kind is associate professor of pediatrics,
Children’s National Health System and George
Washington University, Washington, DC; e-mail: