Life is a work in progress. Nearly seven years ago, I quit drinking. About 3 years ago, I quit smoking and joined the local YMCA. I often tell people that the YMCA saved my life, and I mean that. It gave me a something for myself and kept me on a path of health and well-being. Anyone who’s ever struggled with something knows how hard THAT can be.
So after joining the Y, I met some of my best friends, and we took a bunch of classes together. This went on for a bit, and then someone decided that we should do 5k obstacle course together, as a team. So we signed up for a local race and had about 8 weeks to prepare.
Now, I was not a runner at all and never have been. I tried cross country in seventh grade and quit on the first day. Since that time, running was never on my radar, although I secretly envied the runners that I saw. And for some strange reason, I have always envisioned that I could be an okay runner because I like to sprint and have a lean frame. But that didn’t turn out to be the case.
I started training for the 5k, and it was hard. I have all sorts of issues, including weird gait, tense arms, and shin splints. Plus the mental thing is really hard to get your head around (ha!) But the biggest problem of all was, I didn’t like the training. Honestly, who does? It’s hard work. When you’re taking a class, it’s predictable; your body knows what to expect. But when as I continued running, and began seeing all of the different challenges, I seriously considered quitting. Just giving my bib to someone else. I could think of a million other things I’d rather be doing. Plus I couldn’t keep up with the better runners in the team, which was a downer for me.
Quitting isn’t really an option, though, because unless your sick or there’s an emergency, you have to do it. So I did it partly so that I wouldn’t feel like an ass for bailing, partly because I never give up, and partly because my friends were cajoling me. I ran that race, I put up some respectable numbers (I wasn’t the best but I wasn’t the worst!), and I felt an immense amount of pride that I had finished something.
Awesome! I can cross that off my list. I’ll never have to do another race ever again.
But, a funny thing happened in the weeks following the race. After thinking about it time and again, I began to wonder ‘what if‘. What if I had trained smarter; could I have made better time? What if I pushed myself; could I run farther? Maybe if I tried it one more time…maybe I would I discover that I liked it?
So I kept on running. Not a lot, just a few times a week. I signed up for a few other small races and kept shaving time off, little by little. But I still hated running. Something was making me go, though. I couldn’t figure out what it was or why. In the meantime, while I was still trying to get this sorted out, I registered for and ran a half-marathon. I finished it, without stopping, in just under 2:20. Now, most people would be happy with those times, and I certainly was. But while I was in the race, I was miserable. It was the worst two hours of my life! Why do we put our bodies through this? And back to the original question: WHY AM I DOING THIS?
Running means different things to different people. For some, it’s the racing and winning; for others, it’s staying in shape. Everyone has their own reasons. And although I still don’t fully understand all the reasons why run, I think what I can say is this: For me, running is something that I once convinced was impossible. But I have proven to myself that I was wrong. It is the most empowering feeling to realize what your gut is telling you is impossible can be done. And once you realize that you what you were convinced was impossible, you start to wonder was else you can do.
I read a blog called No Meat Athlete, written by Matt Frazier, and he describes a very similar experience. In it, he says that once those horizons expand, “you have a reason to get out of bed because now there’s more stuff available for you do do with your life.”
And so this is how I’ve come to terms running. It’s opened my eyes to consider the possibility of things that I once thought were impossible. I’m looking through life with a new lens. There’s more ‘stuff’ for me to do with my life. Which is why I recently registered for a full marathon this September.
Wish me luck!