The other day I had the worst. run. ever.
I started too late in the morning. By the time I hit the road it was already way too humid and hot for me and even though I know better, I also ate before I left so I started cramping right away.
My legs were like lead. Each stride was painful. I even tripped on the sidewalk and almost fell flat on my face.
So I stopped to walk. A lot. And I felt generally bad and I wondered the same thing I get asked a lot by others.
Why do I run?
The simple answer: for exercise. I lost a lot of weight through healthy eating and exercise a couple years ago and I won’t go back to where I was. I just can’t. (I’ve chronicled my weight loss journey on my blog. A good starting point is here.)
But it’s more than that.
I have trouble calling myself a “runner”. Real runners (to me) are fast, fit…they make running look effortless. I don’t “look” like a runner. I’m slow and haven’t ever felt a “runners high”, that kick of endorphins that makes running painless. I’m guess I’m just someone who often goes outside and moves awkwardly in a running like motion!
But I’ve been running all my life.
Starting as an awkward 6th grader in upstate New York, running gave me something to focus on. It wasn’t an expensive sport which was good because we didn’t have much money back then. When I moved to Houston in 8th grade, I continued running on the cross country and track teams, but it never came easy to me and I wasn’t particularly good. Plus – I discovered I had trouble sweating properly to effectively cool my body down, so I struggled with heat exhaustion.
In college and in my early twenties, I stopped running, But after gaining weight in the late 90′s, I started back up again. To get back in shape, I trained to walk a marathon in 1999. I ended up running it.
I ran for awhile after that, but I stopped again. And then a couple of years ago I found myself at the heaviest and unhealthiest point of my life.
So I changed my eating habits and I started from scratch with the help of the Couch to 5K plan. (I can’t speak highly enough about this if you are just getting started!) It was as if I had never run before and I remember literally cussing out loud for the first couple of weeks as I started running for only a minute or two at a time.
But after a month I was able to complete a 5K without stopping and I felt proud. I signed up for several more 5Ks then some 10Ks….even a sprint triathlon last summer! Running events give me a goal. My goal is always to finish. If I can run faster than I ran the last time, even better. But running a race, for me, is never about winning.
Warning: I’m about to get a little sappy – bear with me. I’ve got a point and I’ll get to it quickly…I promise!!
Here’s the deal. I come from a long line of those who run away from problems. My biological left us when I was 7. My step-dad also left many years later.
I don’t run away physically, but mentally. My MO is to shut down when things get tough…too painful to deal with.
Running gives me something to run TO. When I make a goal to complete an event, I run towards meeting that goal. Along the way I have little goals: just make it to that corner, just make it to that stop sign (and in a race in Brenham) just make it to the cow! Running, for me, is extremely mental. Working through something physically challenging and seeing it through to the end…finishing, that’s when I get my reward…my “high”.
I’m a little frustrated right now because during the last nine months I was on assignment and wasn’t able to run that much. So lately it’s been like starting over. Again.
And it’s hard. But it’s healing.
So while my run the other day was bad, I got up a little earlier the next day and ran again. And I didn’t eat before I left. And I did better.
Why do I run?
Crazily pursue this thing that I know I’ll never really be good at….that will always be a challenge and will never come easy?
I think I run because of just that…because it IS hard. And that I’m blessed with air in my lungs and two legs to move me forward.
I’m not graceful, nor fast – but I’m a runner.
Do you run? What keeps you going?