Q+A: "Why Do You Keep Running?"

I received a blog request from Elijah this week on my running habit —

“You should do a post on why you kept running after you started, even on those days that you didn’t want to.”

 

Lately, it’s been harder and harder for me to keep the momentum going.

I’ve been running between 4-6 days a week for 4 months now. I can’t actually remember the last time I was this diligent about something. But, then again, I can’t remember the last time I continuously did ONE THING that helped me in all aspects of my life.

In hindsight, running seemed to have been the silver bullet that fixed a lot of problems in my life. If I had a bad day, I’d go on a run. If I had a great day, I’d go on a run. If I got into a fight with someone, I’d go on a run. If I wanted some time alone, I’d go on a run. Heck, if I wanted to pig out that night, I’d go on a run.

So, why am I still running?

There’s a part of me that has made room for this in my life. I made the choice that I was no longer going to be held prisoner to my own mind and body. The extra weight, sluggishness, decreased productivity, and lack of mental focus was really just a manifestation of my unhappiness. That isn’t to say that being skinny is the key to happiness — it isn’t — but when there’s one less thing for you to worry about it frees up your mind to concentrate on the things that matter.

To be honest, I’m still running because I’ve found so much inspiration in a lot of other people…the NPO director who manages a thriving career with spinlates every week. The aspiring triathlete who decided to take baby steps with her training program. The coworker who decides to lace up his running shoes to join me for a few miles around town. The friend who decides to take charge of her life. The significant other who keeps trying to find ways to live a healthier lifestyle, no matter what obstacles life throws in his way. There are people out there who I know that try a thousand times harder than I do to be the best that they can be. If all I have to do is throw on some workout gear and run around town a bit to keep up with them, it seems well worth it. It makes me feel like I’m chasing their successes and supporting their aspirations too.

In addition to that, I think I’ve also been getting better at playing mind games with myself. By always dangling yet another carrot in front of me that is *just* out of reach for now, it makes me work harder to achieve those goals. For instance, I’ve registered my races as far in advance as 6 months. I know that I’ll always have something to work towards. My first 5K was in March, 10K in April, 15K in July, half marathon in September, sprint triathlon in September, and marathon in November.

Living life to the fullest is not about setting it on auto-pilot. It’s about challenging yourself to be the very best self you can be. That’s why, when I get comfortable doing one thing (like running), I try to switch it up a bit (like deciding to train for a triathlon). I had not even been on the saddle of a bike for almost five years before I got back on it again. It took me a few weeks to get comfortable riding around a block at a time. When I got comfortable, I decided to challenge myself to ride it to work about a mile away. When I got comfortable doing that for a bit, I decided to increase my mileage 200% and to get comfortable doing that. And, you can bet that when I am comfortable making that ride I will keep the momentum going.

When I get tired — as in, fatigued from my daily life, bicycling around town, or mentally taxed from an inundation of emails — I know when to lay off. Sometimes, though, my body tricks me into modes of conservation. It tells me when I’m tired when I’ve actually still got some gas left in the tank. What I’ve learned at races is when to hold back — such as in the cases of fatigue in training — and when to leave it all out on the road and to come home empty. At my two best races thus far, I’ve had complete strangers help pace me when I nearly wanted to throw in the towel. My first experience was actually in my first race — about halfway through I was exhausted and tired. I trained primarily on flat roads and this course was hilly. I wasn’t prepared at all and my body was screaming at me to start walking. However, the minute that I began to doubt my abilities, a much older man — probably in his sixties or so — came right up behind me and (literally) gave me the extra push and words of confidence that I needed to hear to keep on going. I still get chills thinking about that kind man’s gesture to this day.

Similarly at my last race in Santa Monica, I was so very close to the finish line that I could see it. I could hear the crowd cheering on runners as they crossed the timing mats. I could feel myself pretty darned tired from the course (uphill grade again), and pretty tired from the four weeks that preceded the race (I just wrapped the planning and execution of a 5K event the day before). He saw me about half a mile from the finish and he began pacing — and I tried to keep up with him. When he noticed what I was doing, he kept speeding up a bit, here and there, to see if I could keep up. I did, and we crossed the finish line together. Afterwards he beamed a huge smile and told me that I kept up a great pace and that he’d see me at the Rock ‘n Roll half marathon in the fall. (I wonder if I’ll be able to keep up with him then!)

Lastly, nothing — honestly, nothing — gives me more joy than knowing that I was able to help someone else reach their goals. (Beware that if you ever divulge some sort of secret hidden goal you have that I will probably try to concoct a way for you to achieve it…and I’ll probably pester you in some fashion as to why you are not yet actively trying to do it on your own.) Being able to cheer a friend on at the finish line or give my two cents on how they should approach a problem makes me happy. And, since running seems to be facilitating that conversation, I think I’ll just lace up my shoes and keep on running!

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