Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why I run

or, more specifically, why I train for races.

I've had a couple of conversations in the past few days that got me thinking about this, because I know a lot of people see the amount of time I spend running as a little excessive.

I love to run.  I didn't always love to run.  Heck, people that knew me way back when would probably have voted me least likely to run a marathon or even around the block.  The thing is, I was obese for the majority of my life.  I dreaded P.E. like a cat dreads baths.  In terms of birthdays, I was at my heaviest when I turned 25, on the downward swing when I turned 26, and have been maintaining (roughly) since my 27th

Running was something that I attempted only after a couple of months of seeing a personal trainer and building up some confidence.  And, man alive, I hated it at first. I would always walk to my gym (about 4-5 blocks from my apartment) and, one day, decided that I could run a block and walk a block.

It sucked.  But I did it.  Pretty soon, I was up to running the whole way and decided that I was going to train for a 5k.  That sucked too.  But I was hooked.  I ran my first half marathon through the Leukemia Lymphoma Society's Team in Training.  They taught me a ton and coached me through my freak-outs.

Because I am not and will never be an "elite" athlete, I don't necessarily love to race (my competitive nature doesn't let me forget that I didn't win).  I love the process of preparing for what seems like a daunting task and working hard to accomplish it.  I love that I can start a run with a headache and a bad attitude and finish my scheduled miles anyway.  I love that it's a constant in my life--I can do it anywhere--on a cruise, in an ice-storm (with yak tracks, of course).

I love that running is time away from everything.  It's where I work out problems in my head or come to peace with things that are bothering me.  And, when nothing's bothering me, I still finish feeling more centered than before I started.  I alternate between a couple of mantras while I run, depending on my need for the day. When I'm having a rough body-image day, it's always "I am fit and I am strong."  Any other day, it's usually "Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner"  (totally learned that one in my commitment class at church).  I practice interview questions and have one-sided conversations.  I spend a lot of my day distracting myself through tv, books, internet and it's nice to know that I still have original thoughts.

While I love the solitude of running, I also love the companionship that comes with running.  I've formed some awesome friendships while running...because it's hard not to open up when you've been jogging beside someone for an hour.  Even when I'm out running alone, I still feel companionship. Everyone you pass on the trail waves hello and smiles.  When I finished my run on Monday, a girl passed me and yelled out good job.  It's so nice to connect with strangers...especially in a world when it's so easy to avoid acknowledging anyone that isn't in your circle.

I love that running makes me feel like a bad ass.  There's a tiny braggart inside of me that really likes being able to tell people about why I was late to Mardi Gras because I had a 9-miler to complete or that calls David on my way home from shorter runs to tell him that my time improved.  Just to let you know (and to make me feel like more of a bad ass), I ran my best 4 mile pace on Sunday--8:02/mile.

Most of all, I love that I feel like this after running!
(In case you're not sure, that's a picture of me feeling good.)

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