I often get asked why I run. Especially from people who have known me for many years; people who know of my long standing eversion to running. I am not even sure what the turning point was, what event or series of events transformed to into a runner. But, in the past few months, I have gone from saying "I run" to "I am a runner." And it is a great feeling. But why?
I'm not sure that I can answer that question fully. Just as there are millions of people who run, there are also millions of reasons to run. Some people run purely for the exercise, others are running from something, or to something. Some have been given a gift of talent and run to capitalize on that gift.
I run because I have to. Now, I know that sounds strange. I have been running for less than a year, and before that, I spent more than 30 years avoiding running at all costs. So for me to tell someone that I need to run, is strange indeed. But it is the truth. There is something inside me that drives me forward, pushes me when I am tired, motivates me when I would rather not run. I don't know what that force is, but I know that if I could sell it, I would make millions.
I run because it is my time. It is a chance for me to refocus, to recenter, to regain. Some people run in groups because the love the commaraderie of running. They use the time to connect with friends and talk about what is going on in their lives. I would do that. I certainly love running with people. It makes the time go faster and offers a distraction from the repetitive miles.
But I prefer to run alone. I don't know if that makes me a loner or not. I just know that I use that time to think and to pray and to talk to God and to talk through my own issues. Sometimes I will listen to music, or podcasts, but a lot of the time, I just listen to my breathing and the sound of my feet pounding the pavement. There is peace in the repetitive sounds and movements. There is joy in pushing my body and feeling it respond.
I run as a way to show my appreciation to God for giving me the ability to run. I run to revel in His creation; both nature, and my body. I guess that in a way, I run as a form of worship. It sounds grandiose and I understand that, but running is so much more than putting one foot in front of the other for endless miles.
Running helps me to be a better person. It gives me a chance to evaluate myself. A time to work through personal struggles and decide how I should respond. I think about what I've done and how I've reacted and I try to learn from those situations. And there is no better way for me to do that than in the middle of a two hour run.
Some people like to talk through their difficulties with a trusted friend, and I see the value in that; I've done that. Some people pray or journal or meditate or do yoga or drink or do any number of other things. I'm certainly not saying that running is the only way to enlightenment. Or even that running will ever get you to enlightenment. All I know is that for me, the world is a clearer, better place after a run. I am able to deal with what life throws at me. I can think more clearly. I can problem solve more effectively. I can understand better and this makes me a better person.
And, there is a part of me that runs to set an example. I am not the fastest, or the best, or the most graceful, or the most anything, but that is what gives me the opportunity to show people that anyone can run. I want my son to run. I want my husband to run. I want my friends and family to run. For way more than the physical benefits.
So, now that I have waxed philosophical and you probably still don't understand why anyone would find joy in running for more than 2 hours (let alone 5!), I just want to let you know that the next time you see me on the road, and I neglect to wave back, please remember that I am probably doing a whole lot more than just running.
And I'm loving every minute of it.