Whenever people find out I am training for [a second] half marathon, I usually am asked the question “why running?”. My typical answer: it is a great form of exercise that requires very little equipment and subsequently, my dad is an avid runner – it’s in my blood right? Although these responses are true, they aren’t the only reason behind my need to pound the pavement for hours on end. With each training run I am learning so much about why I have chosen to make this activity such a big part of my life.
Let us rewind a little. I have always been an active person. Gymnastics, competitive figure skating and dance, soccer, track and field [for a very brief stint], cycling, fitness classes – you name it, I’ve done it… as long as it doesn’t involve hand eye coordination. Typically I excelled at the sports I tried, but running was different. It was such always a challenge for me, both physically [due to shin splints and asthma] and mentally [because I couldn’t understand why it didn’t come easy]. I’ve run on and off my whole life, 5 km here 10 km there, but never with any consistency. After a few runs I’d give up because I felt like I wasn’t fast enough/going far enough/strong enough – whatever the case – giving up was the easy option, and that is exactly what i did. I vividly remember sitting out of the “beep test” during gym class because of my shin splits, but in all reality I could have put up with the pain, I just didn’t want to fail. For some reason the idea of being a runner was one I just couldn’t push aside. I knew I wanted to make it part of my life – I just didn’t know how.
This year I made a commitment to give running one last chance – if I didn’t enjoy it or find pleasure, I would move on. I signed up for my very first half marathon to make sure I had a goal to work towards and devised a training plan. If there is one thing I am good at, it’s sticking to a schedule. As you all know – I did finish the 21.1 km. The sense of accomplishment I felt crossing the finish line was like nothing I’ve ever felt before. I truly believe that moment turned me into a runner. Now that I am training for my second half marathon, I find myself thinking more and more about the answer to why I run, especially when I’m out on long runs. I’ve probably drafted this blog entry several times in my head – it just hasn’t made it to the keyboard. I’ve come up with four honest reasons.
…because it makes me dig deeper and push myself harder than before. Knowing that I gave each run my all and left everything I had out on the pavement makes me feel accomplished. Running is a competition against yourself, not anyone else. PRs will come and go, but the feeling you get when you finish a run is out of the world – it make take months to get to a point where you feel a runners high, but eventually you will and it will make everything worth it.
…because it makes me feel like I am part of a community. As someone who spent a lot of time in individual sports [figure skating and dance], I have a hard time excelling when I am part of a sports team. I just seem to shine brightest when I am on my own. With running it is different, I am a solo athlete, but there are always others out training that I can wave to and smile at along the way. I also love talking about running and training with friends [both online and in person]. For me is the perfect combination of group/individual.
…because it forces me to make time for myself. I rarely run with friends or in a group because I enjoy being able to take a break some socializing. It doesn’t matter if it is a long or short run, the monotony of the activity allows me to get lost in my thoughts and I can listen [to myself] without any interruptions or judgement. I honestly believe running has given me the opportunity to evaluate my life and my goals while making me a more patient and kind person.
…because I can. Running has made me appreciate what my body can do. Maybe my legs are bigger than I would like, but they are solid and strong, and they can carry me through long runs. I am learning to love myself for who I am, not who I wish I could be.
Now it’s my turn, why do you run?