I am a runner. I haven't always been a runner, but I am a runner today. I was a runner yesterday, and the day before that. I'll probably be a runner until I need a wheelchair. Though I didn't realize it until age 18, I've always been a runner.
As a child, I was never one to commit to any sort of athletic event for longer than a year or two, if that. There was my excitement over cheer leading that lasted a few classes, then my stint in softball in seventh grade and my enthusiasm for volleyball in eighth grade among other sports that I wasn't good at and just gave up on. Just ask my mother. She claims I gave up softball because I had to concentrate on the game rather than socializing. While this may be partially true, I think I just got bored and realized I wasn't athletic--I was just really skinny. Unfortunately, lanky uncoordinated children do not an athlete make.
Aside from dabbling here and there, I was never really excited about any athletic pursuits until college. I have a fond memory of my friend Kristin asking me if I was a runner. I thought it was a strange question, and she followed it up (after I said 'no') by saying, "Well, you look like a runner." Keep in mind that at the time, poor Kristin was covered in head-to-toe rug burns from falling off a treadmill. At any rate, something clicked with me and I realized that if I looked the part, I might as well play it, too.
Running is a process, and it takes time to turn into an enjoyable event, as opposed to something you only do to escape danger. It can be a pain in many parts of your body, spark dogs to chase after you and people to yell offensive things from their cars as they pass by. Despite being incredibly hard on your body, running has transformed my body like nothing else could, and provided therapy like nothing else will.
Running is painful. Running causes injuries. Running involves blisters, chaffing, burning, cracked bones, broken toenails, hocking loogies and picking wedgies. It can be dangerous. It can be torturous. Sometimes it makes you vomit. Other times it makes you vulnerable.
But for all its faults and every bit of its pain, running never forgets to return the favor. Running is therapy. Running melts every ounce of stress from your body. Running molds your legs into muscular works of art. It motivates, encourages and shows you the way. Some days, it's the only answer to your problems. Some drink, others smoke--I run. Running never fails to clear my head and enrich my mind. For that, I'll always have a place in my heart for running.
You see, running isn't just running--it's more than that. It's an addiction, it's a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a method of fueling life. It provides a sense of accomplishment, regardless of the pain it instills. Either you're a runner, or you're a spectator--you love it or you hate it. There's no in-between, no gray area; you let it fulfill you or you find another way to further yourself.
Running has toughened me, and has taught me to gain strength from life's little victories. I listen to what my body tells me, but only after the run is over. I wave to every runner and walker I pass, and gain inspiration along the way. Each stride behind me prepares me for every step in front of me, even after the run is over. There's a sense of pride in knowing that if nothing else can protect me, my legs will swiftly take me away.
Running isn't for everyone, I get that. As human beings, we strive to find something that gives us joy in our lives, whether it be a healthy outlet or one that isn't especially good for us. My only hope is that your joy feels as good as mine.
From a New Balance ad in my Runner's World magazine:
"Your friends don't understand what you see in RUNNING.
They just see how RUNNING drags you home early from the best parties.
And how it kicks you to the curb the next morning
before the crack of dawn.
They just see the missed lunches, curious stares
and constant mind games.
And if they don't see the other stuff by now,
odds are they never will."