Sunday, September 29, 2019

Why I Run

In every race, you reach a point where you’ve gone farther than you have to go. It’s the point where the most efficient way out is through. It’s where you realize you can actually reach the finish line. 

For me, this point was when I reached the 8 mile marker during my first half marathon. At that moment, 8 miles was the farthest I had ever run (I know, I didn’t do the whole “training” thing well). I can still see the sign in my mind and it was then that I was honestly overcome with awe. I couldn’t believe my legs, my lungs, my will had carried me so far. 

I still had 5.1 miles to go, but damn, I had already made it so far and had the urge to get off the freaking course not overcome me, I might have broken down right then and there. It was a feeling that I cannot really explain, but just imagine something you thought you would never be able to do, then imagine doing it. It was a sense of pride that no one could or can take away. Like, I did that ish. 

Let’s be clear here: I do not think running is easy or even all that fun. I tend to think it is laborious and effortful and time consuming. Especially when I could also, say, spend a couple hours rowing, or doing yoga, or smashing out a weights sessions in the gym, or playing rugby. All things that I *genuinely* and *thoroughly* enjoy. For me, long distance running has always been about trying. I have to be there when I’m running. No relying on teammates to pick up the slack or not getting deep into a pose to make the practice less intense. I have to be there with every single step. Feet to pavement, every single step. 

I love sports. Well, I love participating in sports. It is the space where I really grew into myself and gained real body and general self confidence. Long distance running broke me down and built me up. It was the first time I really started a sport alone. Yes, I eventually built a community around running, but still, it is heavily focused on individual performance. Running for a long time is serious effing mental work. I’ve probably been physically capable of long distance running for much of my life, but I never did the mental work to get there until last year. For years, I said “I can’t”, and when I decided to erase can’t from my mind, a world of possibilities opened up. Particularly, a world where I was a long distance runner. 

People run for lots of reasons, and I run to shake off limiting beliefs about what I can or cannot do. Running teaches me that forward motion is good motion. I know that if I keep moving in the right direction, I will get wherever I’m going on my own, perfect timeline. I know that I can pretty much do anything I want with the right amount of focus and action. I know that crossing the start line and crossing the finish line are equally monumental feats. I know what the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” feels like in my body as I run mile after mile after mile after mile.

It's Wednesday night as I write this, and by the time this post goes up, I’ll have finished my second half marathon. On race day, I’ll be thinking of my friend Laura who taught me to take life day by day and my friend Jamaica who taught me that you don’t have to be “fast” to be a runner -- these two were my first inspirations to get out and get going. On race day, I’ll be quietly repeating “I am stronger than myself” over and over when things get inevitably tough. And when I cross the finish line, I’ll be shook all over again. In awe of my legs, in awe of my lungs, in awe of my will. 

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