Today is National Running Day. I follow a lot of runners and read a lot of running and fitness blogs, and there was a prompt floating around: “I run because…”
It got me thinking…why do I run?
Short answer: I run because I can.
Long answer: I run because it makes me happy, it pushes me to become a better person, to eat cleaner, and to take better care of myself. It gives me alone time to clear my mind. It prevents me from having to take anger management classes. It gives me time to enjoy nature and get some fresh air. Running gives me confidence, physical and mental stamina, and peace. I run because I can’t afford a therapist. You get the idea.
I started running in high school. For whatever reason, I just always knew I’d be on the cross country and track teams. I don’t know why I had it in my head. I dabbled in softball and did some gymnastics as a kid, but I never really played organized sports. It just wasn’t my thing. My mom jokes it’s because I don’t play well with others. There might be some merit in that.
When I first started running, I was not good. (Disclaimer: I’m still not). I was the slowest girl on the team, and that’s not an exaggeration. Every race, I gutted it out for second-worst time on the team with one other girl, and she usually won. Many of my peers seemed naturally better at running that I was. There were several freshmen on the varsity squad. Now that I’m more experienced, I realize that I was running with some amazingly talented people. As a slow freshman surrounded by speedsters, I felt like a failure. But I kept coming back. And coming back.
And every time I came back, I got a little faster. Was I ever the fastest? Nope. Did I still feel inadequate compared to other, faster girls on the team? Sometimes. But I was still proud of my improvements.
I finally made the varsity cross country team off and on my senior year, always as the slowest on the varsity squad, and I had to bust my butt for it. I won “Most Improved” at the end of the season. From freshman to senior year, I took over 9 minutes off my 5k time (told you, SLOW). I was so proud of myself and incredibly excited for spring track season, which had always been my stronger sport (relatively speaking, that is!).
During winter training, I somehow managed to hurt my back. It took forever for the doctors to figure out why I was in so much pain. My legs were going numb and I couldn’t sleep. Sitting in a school desk was excruciating. I was miserable. Turns out, I had torn a disc in my lower back. I still have no idea how.
With that, out went my track season. I never got to see how much I had improved in the 3200m run. Watching from the sidelines was awful, but I had no choice. I was too injured, and recovery was going to take months. I felt really sorry for myself; luckily, had I had other activities to keep me busy. I didn’t get well enough to run again until about halfway through my first year of college.
I ran sporadically throughout college, but never more than 4 or 5 miles at a time. It wasn’t a priority and I had other things to occupy my time. I picked it up much more regularly after I graduated and started my first job in South Carolina, where I hadn’t made friends yet.
I’d gotten back into a serious fitness regimen in the spring of 2010 when I started having a lot of pain and cramping in my abdomen and back. As it turns out, I had a giant cyst in my ovary. One so big, they had to remove the cyst and the ovary via open abdominal surgery. I spent the next 8 weeks recovering. During that time of inactivity, I realized how important running actually was to me. How much healthier it made me, mentally and physically. Because I was a runner, I recovered from surgery faster. Because running made me more aware of my body and how it should feel, I noticed something was off and had it checked out, despite my doctor’s suggestion to “just wait.”
As soon as I got the OK to start running again, I signed up for my first half marathon. It was something I’d “always wanted to do,” but never bothered making time for because I thought I could do it later. That surgery made me realize that there isn’t always a “later.”
If you want to do something, go do it. This was made even more real to me when Dan tripped during one of our runs together and broke his tibia and tore his MCL, ACL, and PCL. He hasn’t been able to run since, and just had another surgery with the hope that he will be able to in a few months. So far, things are looking good. I had the same feeling last summer, after Kim passed away and I realized I’d never watch him come running down Royall Prairie Lane ever again.
So. I run because I’m here, I’m healthy, and I can.