People are always amazed at how much I love to run. But it didn’t start as a love affair….it started more as a silly boyfriend you date solely because he has amazing eyes. There was only one thing I loved about running in college, and that was that it gave me a maximum workout in minimal time. Sometimes, I hated every step. I don’t remember any run being over five or so miles, and most were more like three. I have to admit, though–that even early on, there had to be that post-run endorphin thing that I got, perhaps even subliminally, because nothing else is going to get you out in the freezing sleet and snow in rural Ohio, even if it is a “good workout.” Although I was athletic in high school, running was never a part of the game.
My running started to evolve a bit as I ventured out to Arizona for graduate school. Suddenly, I was mapping new routes.
I found some new friends to run with, and I entered a 10k. Shortly thereafter, I entered a half-marathon, and some duathlons (running and biking), and then, finally in 2000, my first marathon. I still wouldn’t say I loved running, I wasn’t even sure I liked it. But I am a creature of habit. I thrive on discipline and routines, believing that these things actually allow me to be more spontaneous. In my masochistic mind, working hard makes the playing more fun, and then being spontaneous seems like a deserved reward.
My first marathon was everything it shouldn’t have been. Any normal person would have thrown in the towel. To start with, it was an inaugural race. This is a bad idea because the race directors have had no time to figure out what “works”. I will tell you what didn’t work….the route. It was on a rural course where we sometimes saw no one for miles. People got lost. They ran out of water. Farmers were cutting alfalfa. I had an asthma attack due to said alfalfa. Then I got rocks in my shoes and re-tied them too tightly. Then I felt my feet bleeding. Then I threw up. Then I shuffled, hot, tired, sweaty, and yes, triumphant through the finish line….about a half-hour later than my projected time. And yet, I wanted to do it again.
I now have 8 marathons, 6 or 7 half-marathons, 2 ultras (longer than 26.2), 6 triathlons, 3 duathlons, a dozen or so other distances and 3 or so bike races under my belt. Marathons are my fave….ultras are even better….and trail ultras? Don’t even get me started.
I still don’t always love it. There are days that 4:30 am is just too stinking early. The hills seem to have gotten bigger overnight, every step feels like small tree trunks have been attached to my ankles, and I look at walkers and think, “Hey, walking seems nice….I can carry coffee if I walk.” However, more often than not, even on the days I think I will have a bad run, about half way in I remember why I do it. I remember why it is important to work hard, because hard work reaps benefits. The benefits for me are those days when I simply cherish the sound and cadence of my steps, when I can focus on praying without distraction, when I get to catch up with a girlfriend and no one is asking me for a snack, when I get to solve the oil crisis and the rest of the day seems to unfold before me, limitless with its’ possibilities. At times I am in awe of the beauty of the landscape before me, of the sun rising in the desert as I am alone on the trail, seemingly alone in the world; of the wind whipping my ponytail and the feeling of accomplishment I get when I put in 12 or 13 miles and most people have yet to rise. And don’t get me started on the endorphins. They are my Zoloft and my Prozac and my drug of choice….these indescribable little feelings that leave me smiling and content, even if I am spent.
So I would venture to say that this love affair has been a long time coming. But now, it is more like the boyfriend you love because he is good for you. He makes you feel better, he may not be perfect every day, but he will never turn on you. You love him for everything he does for you, not just one thing. He may not be easy to catch, but not much that is, is worth the chase.
How about you? Are you an avid runner…or maybe you’re just getting started and you’re having trouble staying motivated. I’d love to hear how you got started, your favorite race, or any questions you might have. Leave me a comment below!