Monday, April 14, 2008

Why I Run (and You Should Too)

After some really thoughtful “Runners Lounge” member posts as of late, I wanted to take some time to remind myself (and hopefully others) of the many reasons to run. Here are some of mine:

1. I run because I am able.

Okay, so I know this has been quoted in various forms about 14 trillion times throughout the history of time . . . but really, I do. I run not only because there are people out there who would love to run, and sadly are unable to . . . but also because at a low point in my life—about a year and a half ago—I was unable to run myself. I was out of shape and overweight, and running even half a mile was virtually impossible. I never want to revert to my old ways; to the person I was at that time. Running just so happens to remind me of the fact that I really am a new person these days—a marathoner—a person I can’t help but respect and admire.

2. I run because I'm ever so slightly addicted.

It doesn’t take much for me to miss running. Even on rest days—my alleged reward for the days and days of hard work I’ve put in—I can’t help but long for just a quick jaunt through the park. I so hate the resulting ache of unfulfilled desire I experience when I inevitably have to tell myself “no.” I even tend to suffer from this "withdrawal" on days when I’ve run in the early morning. Without fail, come late afternoon, I get this strange feeling; it’s similar to a toned down version of the let-down one gets after a big event or holiday has passed . . . only on these occasions, there’s simultaneously an overwhelming feeling of pride and joy; knowing that I got my so-not-a-morning-person a$$ up and completed a run while the rest of the world was still sleeping. All I know is that I never again want to get to the point where I no longer miss running on the days I have off. That would be a sure sign it's been way too long since my last run.

3. I run because it's therapeutic and dependable.

In a world so full of stress and hardship, running is the one thing I can always count on that instantly heals me. I could have had the worst day in the history of bad days . . . but if I managed to at least get a good run in, that day is not a complete wash. Running is the best friend that will never betray you . . . it’s free therapy. It’s “me” time. Most importantly, it’s a constant in this crazy and sometimes misdirected life I lead. Running is the one aspect of my life that I never seem to doubt or question.

4. I run because, simply put, I am intrigued by the sport.

It holds this mystique of being unconquerable and yet also very accessible at the same time. For a sport that’s supposed to be simple (“just lace your shoes up and run!”), I sure do have a lot of unanswered questions keeping me awake at night! I tirelessly read blogs, magazines and books . . . hoping I will find at least some of the answers to questions such as:

‧How can an 18-mile run feel easy one day, and a 3-mile run feel like torture the next?

‧Is it possible to get into good enough shape that my runs all seem easy?

‧How fast can I possibly get?

‧How good can I ultimately be?

‧What else can I do to improve my running?

After over a year’s worth of research, I’ve found just one universal truth: Only the individual runner can answer these questions with respect to himself/herself. Others can provide information on what in particular has worked for them—and the advice may well prove useful—but in the end, the only way to answer these questions is to get out there and run. I have learned so much in the past year about my body and mind; and while I love reading about running, the best way to grow as a runner is through trial and error; learning what works best for you. The quest to answer these questions keeps me going on the days when I just don’t feel like running (and yes, I definitely do have those days—I’m only human after all). In order to work towards answering these and many other questions, I just have to get out there and “do it.” (even if it is 10:00 p.m. and I just finished up a 14-hour work day!)

5. I run because it’s challenging.

I do not have a runner’s physique and running certainly doesn’t come “naturally” to me. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I had to go to track camp when I was a kid just to learn proper running form. But I actually love the fact that the sport poses such a challenge for me. I’d probably be bored of running by now if I was a natural. While I know I’ll never run at an elite level; I do know that—at least on a personal level—my running accomplishments are just a huge as those of the elites. They may not win me any cash prizes or trophies, but they are just as satisfying in the long run (pun alert!). The obstacles I face in my running career make the challenges I face in everyday life seem that much more conquerable; and for this reason, I am far more courageous a person than I would otherwise be. This courage has enabled me to take risks I never thought I’d be ballsy enough to take . . . and in turn, has led me to a new love for adventure I never even knew I had in me. It’s cheesy, I know . . . but yet very true.

6. I run because I love to set a good example for those around me.

I know quite a few people who have recently taken up running. And honestly, I can’t help but think that my constant rambling might've had a little something to do with the newbies' plunges into the world of running. After all, when I think back to what originally got me interested in running . . . it was my own disbelief that running could actually be fun. I’m thinking a similar curiosity might just be what got these friends and colleagues of mine out onto the road! When it comes right down to it, if I have helped even one person to be healthier and happier than he/she otherwise would be, I believe that I have done something great. I get the feeling I will continue “spreading the word” until the day I die.

7. I run because I’m competitive.

I’ll be the first to admit it. I am by nature a competitive person. If I didn’t have running—a sport in which I get to healthily compete against MYSELF day in and day out—I’d have to compete against others in some kind of (most likely unhealthy) way. In all honesty, there really just aren’t that many healthy outlets for competitiveness as an adult. I suppose I could compete against my neighbors and co-workers in silly contests revolving around who has the most money, best car, biggest house, etc. But like I said . . . it’s unhealthy. Thank goodness for running, a sport which boasts a supportive and friendly community, and still allows me to abate my uncontrollable urge to compete.

8. I run because I really like meat and beer.

Let’s be honest, these items can take quite a toll on your waistline if you’re not careful . . . but there’s something about running 20 miles that makes you feel pretty darn justified in consuming a big, juicy burger and a cold, draft beer (and yes, that may have just been a reference to Jimmy Buffett).

9. I run because some days were just made for running.

You get outside and the weather is perfect, the air is crisp and clean, and everything just clicks. You get that feeling . . . you just KNOW that running is exactly what you are supposed to be doing at that particular moment in time. You feel like you could run forever. You know that all of the days of running in sleet, wind and pouring rain were worth it . . . just to have this one PERFECT day as your eventual reward.

10. I run because nothing makes me prouder than admitting to being a part of the “running community.”

As I mentioned earlier, I have never encountered anything but support and friendliness from other runners. The fact that there is such a huge community of running bloggers out there just goes to show that runners are totally not haters. I mean, would we really do this blogging thing if it weren’t for the tremendous support we receive from other bloggers? Sure, it's a great way to keep track of my mileage and progress--but I could do the same thing with an online running log--there's more to it than that. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it is to write a post asking for advice, and to have strangers whom I’ve never met or spoken to take the time to chime in and give me guidance . . . or congratulate me on accomplishing my personal goal. In a sport that’s so unpredictable and mysterious, it feels great to know there will always be people out there willing to give of themselves and shower you with the support you need to achieve your dream goals . . . I mean, could anyone really ever ask for more than that?

So, to all of you out there who’ve commented at one time or another on my blog . . . and to those of you out there who’ve been silent but attentive . . . thank you. Thank you for constantly motivating me. Thank you for constantly reminding me why it is I do what I do. Thank your for supporting me with your advice and friendship. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started this blog. But I can honestly say that I have been positively overwhelmed with the response I’ve gotten to it. I can only hope that I can give back to others as much as I have gained in joining this community.


*jen* said...

Amen sister! :)

The Laminator said...

Wow, Irish, that positively has to be your best post ever. You've beautifully expressed what attracts everyone to this crazy sport. I'm at a lost for words right now for how to describe what you've written, but it's very elegant, poignant, and so very inspiring.

I think I'm going to bookmark your post for future reference when I don't feel like getting out of bed in the morning to go running!

Amy@RunnersLounge said...

Fantastic post! You hit on so many reasons that resonate for me too!

Would you mind adding this post to the Inspirational Stories section in the Lounge? It is a perfect addition to the "why I run" category.