A few weeks ago, a colleague and I were sharing our upcoming weekend plans. When I mentioned that I would be out running, she explained that she has never been a runner and was wondering what I loved about it. I appreciated her interest, but her question gave me pause. Almost everyone in my life knows that I am a runner, but few people have ever asked me what drives this passion. I found myself stuttering as I attempted to explain all that running means to me. This morning, a fellow blogger asked followers why we choose to run long distances, which again got me pondering this question. So I decided that in honor of National Running Day, I would attempt to put my thoughts into words.
I run, first and foremost, because I can. That sounds overly simplistic, but the older that I’ve gotten, the more I realize what a privilege it is to be able to do what I do. I am fortunate that I have the health that allows my body to tackle long distances. I am fortunate that I have the time as well. My time spent running is time away from my family, and time away from the obligations of being a wife and mother, and I am blessed that my husband is willing to give me that time to follow something that I love. Apart from this, however, I run for many additional reasons.
I run for myself. To prove that though I may not be as young as I once was, or as skinny as I one was, I am still strong. I became a mother six years ago, and the day that my twins were born, I gained two wonderful blessings in my life. I also, however, lost the carefree life that I had lived before becoming a mom. Having two people depend on you is an awesome responsibility, one that can be both thrilling and terrifying all at the same time. Running allows me to connect the two parts of my life. It proves that though many things changed on that day six years ago, I am still the same person that I once was.
I also run as a form of escape. I am blessed to lead a great life, but as a chronic worrier, there are days when all of the hard bits of life feel like they are crashing down around me. Running takes that away. When I am running, I don’t worry that the value of our home has been dropping for the past five years. I don’t worry that I’m selling myself short by staying in a job as an assistant teacher even though I have a masters degree. I put all of the fear and anger aside when I run. Anger that my family lives so far away, that I rarely see my mom and my sister, that I’m never going to see my dad again. I am able to think about my friends that have been dealt tough hands, and instead of being furious, I’m able to have faith that somehow it’ll all work out. That their struggles and their challenges will strengthen them, rather than break them down. Life feels a bit kinder, a bit more gentle, when I am running.
When I run, it’s just me and the dirt beneath my feet, the trees overhead and the birds chirping in my ear. I may be plodding along slowly, but when I dash through the trails, I am able, even if just for a moment, to feel invincible. I can choose whether to keep pushing or to stop, whether to stay on the flat path, or charge up the steep hill. I can challenge myself to go a little further, a little faster. And if I’m lucky, I can finish a run feeling like I gave it my all, that I pushed to the max, and that I was, if only for a little while, truly extraordinary.