National Running Day: Why I run.
It was June 2005 when I stepped on that treadmill on the Fitness Center in Intech Park. I worked for a company that subsidized our gym membership. The gym was in the same building. And our President, Vice President, et al were all runners. I wanted them to see that when I put my mind to something, there is no stopping me. I wanted them to know that my commitment to success was not just something they’d see in the Boiler Room. I wanted to prove myself to them. I didn’t even think, at the time, what it would mean to me.
So at lunch one day, I started the treadmill. Many other coworkers were in there too so my pride was at stake. I set the speed to 4.5 and started running. Yes, I know how slow this may sound, but I was still running. And panting. And sweating. I couldn’t breathe. My lungs were on fire. But at about 15 minutes, I saw the monitor click to 1.0 miles and I stopped. I looked around expecting the world to applaud.
The next day I did 1.5 miles (with a few breaks) and the next week, I did 2 miles. Two slow, hard mother effing miles. But the following week, I did 2 miles every day, Monday-Friday. My hips hurt. My shins splint. My quads ached. I was wearing old sorority tshirts that pooled sweat. I distracted myself by learning to say the alphabet backwards. I watched “Felicity” reruns on the TV monitor in front of me. I did anything to keep my mind from telling me “Meggie. You can’t do this.”
Now, 7 years later, I have run 8 marathons and one ultra marathon. Running is as much a part of my life as anything else. And lately, I have had quite a few people tell me that this blog has made them think about running for the first time. So on National Running Day, (today!) I am going to list the reasons I run. Because maybe one of these things will register with you. Maybe you’ll lace up those sneaks and go for a 15 minute mile like I did that first time. Maybe you’ll become hooked and end up smoking me in my next marathon. I wouldn’t put it past you. Anything is possible.
I run because…..
- I can. My dad has Parkinson’s Disease. I watch him struggle with every single daily task from eating, standing up, walking, talking. When I want to quit because my legs are tired, I remember my dad and all of the others that can’t run. It’s my privilege and honor to be able to put one foot in front of the other.
- I like food. And no, I don’t mean salmon and celery. I mean bread and pasta and cheese and cookies and ice cream. Running gives me a bit more flexibility to incorporate some of these foods in my diet with less guilt.
- it’s my equalizer. When I am sad. Angry. Stressed. When I feel out of control. When I feel insecure or down on myself. Running makes it all better. Every single time, it makes it all better.
- of the relationships this sport has given me. The Perfect Strangers have become a family to me. We support each other in ways unfathomable to those who don’t put in the miles we do together. We laugh. We cry. We email every day. We share our deepest fears and secrets. We don’t judge. We just run and love. That’s one helluva combination.
- before I started running, I felt like I was a thin girl trapped in a bigger body. Running shed those layers for me. Now I am just me. And though I probably have as many (if not more) image issues than the average girl, I can look in the mirror and be satisfied with the person looking back at me. Running gave that to me.
- it feeds my constant need for accomplishment. In school I had to get As. At work, I have to hit 100%+ of my quota. But I am always looking for more–to feel like I am growing and achieving. So when I hit a PR in a race, it rivals any academic or work-related accomplishment I have ever done.
- it’s simple. I don’t need a pool to swim in. Or a team to play basketball with. I don’t need special exercise equipment. I just need a road and tennis shoes.
- I collect experiences from each run/race I do. Whether it’s seeing a herd of deer standing on the Monon Trail in December while big snowflakes fall around me. Or when I dunked my head in a fountain at the Eiteljorg Museum because I was so hot. Or when I saw a man riding his bike whilst playing the guitar. Or when I ran along the river in Florence, through Vatican City in Rome, through Regent’s Park in London, by the ocean in Mexico. Running expands my horizons.
- nothing feels as good as crossing the finish line of a marathon.
- I have a tattoo on my back that says “And miles to go before I sleep.” It’s my life motto. And it’s permanent so there’s no quitting for this girl.
- I can be selfish when I run. I can speed up or slow down at my prerogative. I can run longer or shorter. I can run solo or with friends. I can wear ridiculous socks. I can wear barely there shorts. I can run listening to the Jersey Boys Soundtrack mixed with Ludacris. When I am running, it’s for me.
So let’s hear it runners, why do you run? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s see if we can motivate those who are teetering on the edge of their very own running journey. Yes, we know it’s hard. And it will suck at the beginning. Your lungs will feel like a wildfire. And your legs will feel like each weighs 600 lbs. But I can promise if you stick with it, you too will have a long list of reasons why you did. And you’ll never regret it. Ever.