Why I Run
Almost two years later, I still believe this all to be true - other than the fact that I am learning to identify and define myself outside of running. Read more about that here.
Happy Global Running Day - go out and get your sweat on! No matter how fast, how far...get out there today!
I run. I am a runner. I have always been a runner, and I always will be a runner. If there is anything I am ever certain of–or a defining trait–it is that I am a runner down to the core.
At the end of 8th grade, my parents informed me that I had to join a sport in high school. I had been classified as “slightly overweight” at the end of this school year, and my parents wanted me to become more active. Plus, I didn’t want to have to do P.E. classes in high school–swimming during 1st period and ruining my hair for the day sounded unappealing to 13-year-old me (what a drama queen). Considering I’m pretty uncoordinated, I knew my options were slim. On a whim, I chose cross-country because one of my best friends, Dayna, was also joining the team. Furthermore, tryouts were at the end of the summer, so I would have time to try to qualify during summer practices.
Looking back, I’m unsure of what pushed me to this decision. I was a horrendous runner prior to high school–I struggled to run a mile in under 14 minutes (yes, run...not even walk) and often failed my mile runs in junior high P.E. classes. I generally hated the feeling of running, and this was reflected on my first day of summer practice. I had to stop every twenty seconds to pant and bend over during those two miles, while I looked enviously in the distance as the varsity girls team flawlessly and effortlessly ran seven miles.
However, I developed a quick bond with two of my coaches–Coach Mike and Coach Mendez. Both saw that I had potential and took the time to train me. Long story short, I quickly became a varsity runner. By the time I was a senior, I was running my 5k races in under twenty minutes and was on the all-league cross country team for the high schools in my city. I won a few cool awards related to cross country and was scouted by college coaches. I enjoyed the competition; I loved nothing more than racing and beating my old PR.
This competitive journey ended with a quick stint of competitive running during my freshman year of college (per my choice), but I knew I still had the runner inside me. So, I kept running on my own. I’ve run a handful of half marathons (one coming up in August...eek...my first race post-injury) and dozens and dozens of 5ks. I have to keep goals set for myself or I’d stop running as frequently. However, I no longer run for competition. I no longer run to beat a time. I no longer run for distance. I no longer run to beat a standard. I run because I simply love running.
I run, first and foremost, because it keeps me healthy. No, I don’t run to lose weight–health is not just weight. Running combines both cardio and toning, and it’s the best –and cheapest– workout. It boosts my metabolism and gives me energy (ironic considering I’m expending energy...but what do I know about science?!). No matter how slow I go, I know that I am still having a great workout. If I’m feeling down on my body (which has unfortunately been frequently lately), I can run and feel rejuvenated in my strength.
I run because it keeps me sane. Running is my prime solo time for me to focus on my thoughts and work out my negative energy; it’s a cheap form of therapy. The endorphins bring me happiness, and the alone time gives me an opportunity to problem solve without any distractions. I’ve had some great epiphanies while running because I am not distracted. And in the case I just don’t want to think about life’s distractions? I can just tune out my thoughts and focus on some great, upbeat music. I focus on my breath and steps and just zone out for a few miles.
I run because of the community. Though I am not on a team anymore, I still find community while running. Nothing bonds people together like running does - as most recently demonstrated by experience with November Project. You experience weird things that only runners will understand – the pain of having to go to the bathroom on a long run, dumb drivers, shin splints. Running with people also can make a hard run go by faster; I’ve had some of my deepest life chats while running. Plus, nothing is better than passing a fellow runner and having them wave and cheer you on – even as a complete stranger. We’re all in this together, and it’s really motivating and kind to have this surrounding community.
I run because I get to see places I never would otherwise. People often inquire as to how I knew the layout of Nashville fairly well - and now San Diego. Simply put: running. I have to change up my paths often to avoid boredom (though I’m pretty attached to two particular routes here). However, I’m able to see neighborhoods of Nashville–or anywhere I am–that I would not normally because of running. This has helped familiarize me with different cities–and discover some awesome restaurants that I pass by as well! Furthermore, after become a morning runner based on my schedule during senior year (working two jobs & taking classes while trying to train), I have seen the prettiest sunrises with running. I wouldn’t normally be awake for these moments, but I’ve gotten to experience some breathtaking natural moments.
I run because running mirrors the values I want to see in my life. Running has taught me so many things about life. Running has shown me how to not give up. There are so many runs where I am struggling to breathe, my legs hurt, and my mind just doesn’t want to keep going. However, I have to get back home–there’s literally no choice but to push through. I’ve started to use this in life. I can’t just give up when things get hard. Moreso, the times I often feel the worst are on uphills. But, uphills are inevitably followed by rewarding downhills.This is how life works too–hard times (uphills) are followed by better feelings (downhills). Furthermore, I’m not as speedy as I used to be back in my heyday in high school - no more sub 5:00 miles for me. However, progress is progress, and it’s better than nothing. A 6-minute mile is just as far as a 12-minute mile. Running also shows me I can do a lot more than I imagined. I’m training for another half-marathon right now, and I didn’t think I would be capable of running this far again, after fracturing my hip and still being at risk for breaking the entire bone. However, I surprised myself with a speedy 4 mile run yesterday morning! Progress. Running has shown me that I can defeat my own self-deprecating expectations. Lastly, running has taught me to celebrate finish lines, not the finish times. Yeah, I set time goals still, but I have to be more realistic about them now. I’m not as fast as I used to be, nor will I ever be. However, the fact that I finished something hard is a celebration in itself, regardless of if I came in first place or last place.
I run because I love running. Often, running sucks. It’s hard to feel like you are incapable of breathing. It’s hard when you injure yourself. It’s hard when every bone in your body wants to quit and every muscle is telling you to stop it. It’s hard when people pass you, and it’s hard when you have a bad run day. It’s hard tripping and falling over sidewalk cracks (or maybe that's just me), and it’s hard to do laundry way more frequently. Running is not a comfortable feeling–ever. However, despite all the bad aspects of running, I love running.
Running has been particularly difficult and disheartening lately. Recovering from this hip injury has been longer and harder than I expected. However, as I run around San Diego training, I’ve been trying to remind myself of why I am a runner and will always be a runner. I’ll definitely be working on just completing a half marathon for now, but I am still a runner and I love it.
I love the endorphins, I love the way it clears my mind, I love the places I get to see and the people I get to connect with. I love that running has shaped so many values in my life. I love running, simply put.
Happy Global Running Day!