A great question has been asked recently, one that I’ve seen in blogs and recently splashed on Times Square billboards and subway cars – “What are you running for?” It’s made me think long and hard, as well as make me feel incredibly guilty. Once an avid runner, my last run was no more than a slow jog almost two months ago across the now very monotonous, repetitive Central Park. It took much personal cajoling, several revoked excuses, and too many promised post-run rewards to go on that short run. I found I didn’t love it anymore…I was forcing it, trying to remember a time when I liked lacing up my sneakers. Suddenly, running wasn’t a release from my stress, it was another damn thing I had to do. And I was tired of being told what to do. Immediately post-graduation, post-San Francisco half-marathon, I began asking myself, “What do I want to do tonight?” After a thousand nights of balancing work and class, nary a vacation taken in years, I wanted to just…go…home. So I did. Repeatedly. Going home directly after work, making dinner, watching tv, and having a glass of wine like a normal person. Fastforward three months, and I am a waste of space, an amoeba in gray cargo sweatpants laying on my couch. I am Homer Simpson with a brunette bob. I feel bad in my skin, I don’t sleep well, and I eat French fries at every meal…you think I’m kidding, I was in McDonald’s on Broadway at 11:35 this morning.
So naturally, I’m disgusted with myself – and now to top it all off, the NYC marathon is in mere days and the city awash in running euphoria. Sales at Paragon, billboards outside my office, ads staring at me in my daily paper, and the constant question directed to me “Are you running this year?”
My reply, “How on earth would I have the time, when I’m busy eating this doughnut?”
So thankfully, guilt has won, and I went running tonight for the first time in months. And, as I knew it would, it felt great, and my breath never quickened. I just had to find my way back, and answer the question, “Why do I run?” If you ask yourself this question about anything in your life that you love or once loved, I’m warning you, you will make immediate changes.
So why do I run?
1) If the Chilean miner can train for the NYC marathon while trapped in a damn cave, I can get my arse to Equinox.
Talk about dedication….Edison Pena, after being trapped for 69 days said, “Maybe I ran because I was anxious, maybe to find a way out. Running is a way of releasing tensions, clearing the head, freeing yourself from chaotic thoughts.” No, I wouldn’t know anything about that, Edison.
2) My health.
It’s the only thing that allows me to eat what I want to eat, drink what I want to drink, and still stay fit. My lack of self-control will deter me from ever being able to go on a diet…so I need to find ways around avoiding white flour and carbs. Booze is my friend. I eat five slices of bread a day. Pizza three times a week. Pasta six times a week. I think Dr. Atkins should have been tarred and feathered. Food is my life. I can eat you under the table, anytime, anywhere. What lets me get away with it? Running.
3) Because I have two legs.
And am blessed to have them. When I ran the NYC marathon in 2008, there was a man who PASSED me, who had no legs. Let me repeat myself. The man was on crutches with no legs, and he passed me. Let’s forget what a turd I felt like, that’s another discussion entirely.
I ran alongside some very old veterans who proudly wore their emblemed caps signifying their division and rank. I ran with people who had faces stamped on their shirts who had passed from breast cancer, cerebral palsy, MS, AIDS., September 11. I ran for 4 hours, thankful that I had a healthy body that carried me the whole way. – and eternally grateful that there was no one I loved who needed to be pasted onto my shirt.
I was a sprinter in high school, in the 55 meter hurdles, 100 meter dash., and 4x200m relay. I scoffed at running over a mile. When two co-workers revealed they were training for a half marathon, I immediately asked “Why would you do that? Do you not like yourself?” while simultaneously thinking, “If these chumps can do this, so can I.” And so it began.
Only runners will understand the feeling of finishing a run, having pushed yourself beyond the limitations you set for yourself. The ones that others set for you. And surpassing them. From completing a slow jog on a challenging day to the disbelief of having that silver foil put around you after 26.2… It’s all amazing. You come home proud each time. And positive. For all of you who know me (and those who don’t), I know it comes as no secret that I’m not Ms. Positivity all the time. But running doesn’t allow you to go to that place.
So this begs the question….why do you run? Why do you do anything that you love doing? Why do you play tennis? Why do you knit? Why do you write? Why do you paint? Why do you read? Why do you crave going home to your wife and kids at night instead of happy hour? My advice to you is to think about your answer…to get out of the habit of “Just Do It” and instead remember why you love it. Why it treats you so well. Why, without it, you become a different person than who you are meant to be. I guarantee you….you’ll experience your own equivalent to hopping on a creaky Equinox treadmill and pounding it out.