This is my best attempt at answering Brian Fretwell’s question, “Why Are You Runnnig?“.
When nonrunners find out that I run ultramarathons I am often asked, “Have you always been a runner?” I often struggle to answer this question. I mean, yes, I ran as a kid. ..but don’t all kids run?
I like to call myself a “Born Again Runner.” I stopped running in high school because drinking and looking for trouble seemed more appealing than staying after school to run the track or the nearby neighborhoods (for cross country). At the age of 29, I reintroduced myself to running as a way of escaping the realization of a failed relationship and the need to embark on a new beginning. During this time I ran alone on a treadmill. I enjoyed this alone time with the voices in my head. It allowed me to solve problems, propose and answer questions, and set priorities. I didn’t start running socially until a year later when I met my husband in Ashland, Oregon. Turns out we were both trying to use the only working treadmill in Southern Oregon University’s student fitness center. So that we could both get a run in, my husband invited me outside to run. What started as running through the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the university campus quickly turned into joining hash runs with the Ashland Hash House Harriers to exploring the Ashland watershed and nearby Siskiyou Mountain Range.
So, Why do I run? On any one given day that answer may be different or any combination of the following answers.
1) Clarity of Mind
First and foremost, running allows me to clear the cobwebs from my brain. I can get lost in my own head. Sometimes these session lead to problem solving or solution finding and sometimes it just time spent in conversation with a good friend, me. 😉
2) Getting Moving
I do suffer a little from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Though I don’t have to be in constant motion. I do tend to fidget a little and I am more productive when I have multiple tasks on my plate. As a result, I tend to get cranky if I stay sedentary too long. Moving helps curb the grouchiness and running is my most often chosen method of movement.
3) Become a Member of the Running Community
Turns out that the running community is HUGE and eagerly welcomes all abilities, ages, and levels. I can not possibly begin to count the number of interesting, inspirational, and all around awesome people that I have met through running. Each one of them carries an interesting story and perspective that I love learning.
My introduction to the running community was through the Hash House Harriers, a drinking club with a running problem. Until that point, I hadn’t considered running socially. I know, pretty sheltered.
As human beings, we are social creatures. In the distant past, we ran in groups as a means of chasing down our prey. Today, social running allows us to connect with one another to create supportive relationships. These connections allow us to express our hopes and dreams (running and nonrunning related) and to support one another. Not only is running good for our bodies, social running is also good for our well being.
4) Get Outside
I run as an excuse to get outside and explore. My two feet can take me to amazing places. Running allows me to experience many of the amazing sites and creatures that our planet has to offer. Often times I will sign up for a race as an excuse to discover a new area or just to spend some time in a place I already know.
5) What Am I Made Of…
In 2000, through the encouragement of some amazing runners I met while living (and running) in Ashland, Oregon, I signed up for my first marathon (Lake Tahoe Marathon). I remember those last few miles being tough, but not unbearable. Really the only thing that hurt were my feet. This, of course, effected the rest of my body. But hey, I was able to finish. I was even able to avoid getting jealous over the fact that my husband still had plenty of bounce in his step while he asked when we were going to sign up for a 50 mile race.
It wasn’t until 2003 that I decided to sign up for my first ultramarathon. I ran my second marathon (Avenue of the Giants) when my oldest daughter was 10 months old. I was still carrying extra pregnancy weight and my running was slow. My husband and I were still several miles from the finish when I said, “we should sign up for the Siskiyou Out Back (SOB) 50K.” In the past we had always run the 15K distance. Even though, I knew it was going to be a slow race for me, I was ready for the challenge of the ultramarathon. (I mean it would only be 6 additional miles.)
After finishing the SOB, I was hooked on ultras. Since that time I have enjoyed testing my limits and exploring how my body responds. To be successful at running ultras you need to train your brain just as much as you need to train your body.
Running has had a tremendous effect on my confidence. Like many girls and women, I grew up with that voice in my head that would say, “You can’t do that.” I tended to listen to that voice more than ignore it. Today, because of running, I have gained tremendous respect for what my body can do.
Running has also improved my confidence on body image. Many of the challenges that I have (and will) tackled would not be possible if it weren’t for the design of my body.
So there you have it. I’m not running away from anything, or towards anything, in particular. I don’t use running as a substitute for an addiction. I just find running enjoyable and beneficial. I hope these words ring true for other runners. For nonrunners, I hope these words inspire you to give running a try. The distance and/or speed is insignificant. The idea is to start by putting one foot in front of the other and repeating that over and over again.