why i run

"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon."
- Emil Zatopek, Czech runner, winner of four Olympic gold medals

In high school, I ran track one season (sophomore year)- I actually managed to letter but didn't stay with it.  I convinced myself it wasn't worth my time, the other girls were better than me, etc. etc.  During college, I gained some weight (whose with me!) worked out off and on.  During my final year of college I weighted about 185ish (I'm 5'10) and wasn't really on the whole work out train.  I also struggled with bulimia my senior year of high school and senior year of college. 

The year after graduating was difficult.  I felt lost and out of place.  It was such an adjustment to be working all day every day in a field I hated (customer service thank you very much!).  Our economy had just crashed and it was a pretty bleak place.  I started drinking, a lot.  Thanks to going to a private, Christian college my party years had been delayed (I think it comes for everyone at some point).  So much of life are these difficult adjustments that we have to make.  I went from an environment where everything was handed to you in a bubble - friends- pick from these groups! classes, pick from these, extracurriculars- do what you want! to this wide open field with no close friends near by (at the time) and just day in day out punching a clock.

So anyways, drinking, loved it, was great at it, suck at it now.  I did start to lose a significant amount of my college weight during this time (surprisingly).  Being on a set schedule and set meal times can have that affect.  Anyways, at some point, I get it in my head that I am going to run a half marathon in the spring.  I think I signed up in January, paid the fee and started in blind in my training.  Keep in mind, I am still doing great at drinking.  My Saturdays would look like this:

wake up (slightly hungover)
go for a long run at some point
pound five advil
drink my dinner/party all night.

I lived with my best friend and we also had gym memberships, so during the week, I would hit the gym usually a couple nights a week as well.  Winter in my area is not kind, so the majority of my training was done in about two months.  May rolled around and I went to my first marathon - completely alone.  My best friend had to work, my parents were out of town on vacation and my other friends were busy.  I woke up at 4:45, got ready, drove myself downtown, freaked out because the garage I was going to park in was sectioned off for the race, found street parking and went downtown.  I checked my bags and looked at all the people warming up (which by the way people, running before the marathon, I still think you are crazy- the marathon IS THE RACE people, save it!). 

It wasn't until the start line thought, standing smooshed together in this bubbling mass of people, everyone chattering or listening to music, focusing.  It is one of the few times where I will say one can literally taste the anticipation.  There is a hunger in the air.  Everyone is ready.  My first start was electric.  People ripping off excess clothing and throwing it into the street, onlookers milling about shouting congratulations.  The race starts and collective whoops are moving through the crowd.  We are ready.

It was hard to finish, at about mile seven, I was really worn out and sore, but I pushed through and finished in 2:15:something seconds.  At the end of the race, I remember feeling really lonely.  I walked along for a while, cooling down, ate the banana, fingered my medal.  It was so strange to have something so big accomplished and not have anyone there.  I walked back to my car and drove myself home and promptly fell asleep until my roommate got home and we went out together for some much deserved food.

That race changed me though, mentally, physically.  I became aware of how tough I truly was, and how great I truly could be if I tried.  It was a huge task to accomplish, much less to do it as a borderline drunk.  I knew then that I could try to tell myself otherwise, but I was a runner, I need it in a very definitive and tangible way.

My life has changed significantly since then.  I rarely overindulge (not worth it once you have kids waking you up at the ass crack of dawn), I'm married, I don't work at that job anymore.  Life in unflinching in the onslaught of change that it brings our way.  Running doesn't change though.  Lacing up, tugging on my shorts, adjusting my earphones, grabbing the spare key, breathing the first breathe of air.  It is constant, an unmoving mountain in which to rest while life changes around me.  Running doesn't change, but it changes me.  It fills me with peace, it gives me a spiritual rest that my soul longs for in this world, it connects my feet with the soil and the earth and the woods.  My body leans into nature when I run, drawing strength from the energy beneath my feet.  I never feel more spiritually awakened, more at peace, then when I am out running.

Running has given me the confidence to bloom, right where I am.

1 comment

  1. I loved this post. I felt like I was getting out there with you by the way you described this. Wonderful post.