“A true runner knows that the most difficult challenge is not physical” -Me
Runners often have a hard time explaining to people why they enjoy running. I believe this is mostly due to the fact that people grow up associating running with pain, particularly if they participated in another sport in which running was used as a form of punishment. It is not that runners do not feel pain, we certainly do, but more so that we get a gratification from it and find many benefits that outweigh any physical discomfort.
Over time I have come to realize that I run for many reasons (to stay in shape, to be able to run races, to spend time with my dad), but the main one is because it is the only thing I have true control over in life and can make a constant. It is the only thing that has been able to define me and has not changed even as I have changed over the years. I have experienced nearly every emotion possible while running… anger, frustration, disappointment, excitement, hurt, happiness, jealousy, depression, tranquility and pride. Many runs I have completed are simply to get outside and enjoy “my time” while often times training for a race. I can run without needing it to be for training purposes, but I find that it’s more motivating to have a race to train for as it makes me run even if I’m having a “lazy” week.
I realized this evening during my run that come Nov. when I turn 27 I will have officially spent more of my life as a runner than I have not. I began track in 7th grade and throughout my senior year of high school it was the best thing in my life. It provided me with a wonderful group of friends, some of whom I still have good friendships with today. For a girl who had many rough gym classes through the years (I believe I have been hit in the face with every type of sports ball), it was a chance to shine as an athlete. While I was never the most elite, I had my fair share of 1st, 2nd or 3rds and to date I still take pride in going to the District 3 Championships my senior year. I began cross country my junior year of high school more so as a means of keeping in shape for track than anything else. It did, however, embed in me an enjoyment for running longer distances. Given that one cannot compete in hurdle races throughout one’s life (my specialty in track), it also made it so that I had a way of continuing to run even after graduation.
I still have my ups and downs with running particularly in the winter. The cold and I disagree more and more each season, and I can only tolerate running on a treadmill for so long. I will never take the ability to run for granted though. March 2010 I developed mono which kept me on the couch for a week straight, sleeping probably 12-16 hours a day. The worst part though was that it caused my liver to swell which made the doctor order no physical activity until it was back to normal. Unfortunately this caused me to literally not do any physical activity for the entire month. Once I was cleared to be active again I went to the high school track and proceeded to run. I barely made it a half mile before I had to stop, and all I wanted to do was cry. I had never felt so out of shape in my life. Fortunately time and training brought me back into shape to the point of training for my first half marathon the summer of 2011. I was signed up and ready to race in the Harrisburg half marathon that Sept. and hadn’t felt so in shape since my senior year of high school. Unfortunately Mother Nature decided the week before was a good time to send a hurricane our way. The race was rescheduled for later in the fall, a time that did not suit as I was in the process of moving and starting a new job. The training felt as if it had been for nothing, but every run I had completed was still worth the mental toughness I had developed and the enjoyment of running with my dad and friends.
I am now back at it again, training for a half marathon. I’m hoping Mother Nature chooses to behave herself this Sept. The major difference in training this time is the majority of my long runs have been by myself. Back in 2011 I had the luxury of running with my alma matter’s cross country team two evenings a week, but now I have no such luck. I’m also battling a slight knee issue that is mostly under control save for a few choice runs when it chooses to flare up.
Overall running is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend my time. It gives me a chance to get fresh air, enjoy the sun, and just let my mind wander. I find I do my best thinking when I’m running. It releases life’s stresses and refreshes in a way that no other activity seems to for me. I often laugh to myself when I get weird looks from people I pass while running. I know they must think I’m crazy, and I want to tell them that I’m honestly enjoying myself though I’m sure that would make them think I’m even more crazy. Maybe being a runner does require a bit of neuroses to truly understand it and want to do it and enjoy every minute of it, painful and pleasurable.