Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why We Run

Over spring break, I had the awesome opportunity to reconnect with some of my best friends from grad school. These ladies went through the learning-to-teach ringer with me, and we always have a good time catching up. One of these women started a weight-loss journey about a year ago, and not only took on Weight Watchers as her guide, but began running. On top of that, she completed a half marathon this winter. I was super excited to see her and discuss all things running!

The conversation got me wondering something. You see, KH is a real runner. She gets up at 4:45 to run 4 miles before work twice a week, and runs on weekends as well. (Anyone waking up before dawn in order to run is a "real runner" in my book!) But while I was gushing about my love of running, she had one of those half-smiles on her face. One of those smiles that says, "Eh."

You see, she likes running, but she's open to looking for other kinds of workouts as well. She's thinking of taking up biking, she said. In short, or what I gathered at least, was that running isn't her love.

So here I sit wondering: why do we run? There are surely dozens of answers. Some people run for the weight-loss, the health benefits, the joy of being outside, the freedom of movement, to prove they can, for over-all mental well-being...But if you're looking to lose weight, why choose running in the first place? It's strenuous and can be tedious and boring. It's not very expensive and doesn't require a gym, so there's that.

But...why run? Really?

I discovered something about myself through that conversation. I am not a runner because I seek competition or feel the need to force my body to look a certain way/function at a certain level. I originally made the resolution to learn to run because I wanted some form of exercise that would take me outdoors, but it has progressed beyond that. Now, I think I'd feel safe saying I'm the kooky lady whose eyes glaze and who salivates at the chance to extol the many virtues of my weekly runs. (Not necessarily how awesome I am, but how amazing the run was.)

Basically, I've fallen in love with running. Why do I run? Because I need it. I love it. I crave it. Even on the days when I wish I didn't "have" to, I go and feel blessedly, blissfully happy for doing so. Without running, my mood dips. I feel lethargic. I'm cranky and easily annoyed. The endorphins running releases are only part of it! The knowledge that I am taking time for myself and doing something wholly good for my body and mental health gives me a high I simply cannot relate to anything else. I'm addicted.

We runners have many different reasons for running, and no reason is more valid than any other. Running for weight-loss and physical health is a perfect reason to put on your sneakers. But I'm beginning to notice that there are different categories of runners, and we experience our relationship to running in different ways.

Perhaps running is a challenge, or something to be conquered, or something to improve upon. Perhaps it's a best friend, a quiet and reflective moment, or a stress reliever. Perhaps it is a tool.

For me, running is it. I don't see myself trading it in for biking or swimming. It's not just about exercise in general; for me, it's about the experience of running specifically.

So that's the bottom line, then. I've come to a place, finally, where I define myself as a runner and feel incomplete when I'm not running consistently. I enjoy it even when I hate it. It's not even really about the multitude of benefits beyond the simply stated: When I don't run, I don't feel good.

Tell me, readers...why do you run? Why did you first choose running as your sport, and why do you continue it? How do you define your relationship with your runs?


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