July 4th is a 10K tradition for me and I set out with 57,753 of my running buddies. The Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta is the biggest 10K in the world, and I got to run it. I know, I know; I can hear the groans. Running's not for everyone, but the excitement was palpable. There was some kind of transcendent experience going on. I felt happiness all around me. Allow me to explain.
It is a beautifully clear day with a cool 71 degrees in Atlanta. With the 85% humidity it does feel a bit warm. There are lots of people everywhere and at 7:30AM the first group takes off. They really take off, finishing the 6.2 miles in a mere 27 minutes, 36 seconds. You don't need a calculator to get how fast that is. I am elevated by participating in an activity with this amazing group of athletes.
I get to my start wave and we're all like horses in their stalls before the race. We're shuffling, stretching, talking, listening to the announcer and itching to get going. But we're in an enormous pack. We can't move much. I get a little choked up which seems inexplicable at first. Then I realize it's about being in this huge group of people united in our quest to finish 6.2 miles in the heat on Independence Day.
The whole enterprise is not too serious though. There's music blasting on the sidewalks along the course. People are handing out free food, beer, Frisbees, headbands, and other goodies. Runners are in costumes and makeup and there's a lot of red, white and blue. It's my version of the dances, raves, religion and nature that John Haidt associates with self-transcendence. Ultimately, there's a feeling of being uplifted, along with fulfillment and happiness. At that moment life does have meaning.
I'm not saying you have to find your happiness and meaning in a run. I am saying you have to find something that gives you that uplifted feeling. Something transcendent. Something sacred.