The Keeper of My Sanity.

I get asked – a LOT – why I run.  When I talk about running to people, whether they be friends, acquaintances or someone I just met, I get a lot of blank stares.  Confused looks.  Even a grimace or two.  In the 10+ years that I have been running (remember: off and on), it has taken me until now to figure out that not a lot of people like running.  Some even downright hate it, and are very liberal in sharing that feeling with me when I say I’m a runner (which doesn’t bother me, honest.  Whatever blows your hair back!).

It is actually difficult to put into words why I run.  But in the interest of making this post longer than a paragraph, I’ll give it a go.

Running to me is like what I think flying would feel like.  I mean, if I had wings and was built to fly like birds do, I figure it would feel a lot like running feels to me now, as a mere human with two legs and no wings.  There is just something unreal about my body being able to move in what seems like perfect synchronization, carrying me over an expanse of land as efficiently as possible.

Now, let me be very honest here.  I have been running on and off for 10+ years.  So even though in my head I feel I look like Kara Goucher when I run, I very likely look more like Phoebe in that Friends episode.  You know the one.  For the longest time, I didn’t consider myself “a runner.”  I held “those people” in very high regard in my own head, this elite group that I could follow but never be a part of.  Well I finally figured out that that’s kind of silly, seeing as to be a runner all you have to really do is… run. Put on running shoes.  Go outside/get on treadmill.  And run.  That’s all.  No big deal.

Except running, to me, IS a big deal.  It literally and figuratively is my sanity-keeper.  Just the other evening, I was having a much-belated conversation with my best friend, who is also a runner.  Being as we are both runners, the conversation eventually turned to running (but only after the kids/husbands/jobs/family/life threads of the conversation had been shared). She said something that I connected with very heavily – that even when she is in the worst mood, when she has had the worst day, going for a run will literally erase all of that from her mind and she comes home to her family feeling like herself again.

Running, for runners, is THAT powerful.  I have had those days where I can’t even think straight because my day has basically gone backwards to how I thought it should have.  Nothing, absolutely nothing goes right or has gone right.  And then the baby throws up all over me (because there’s nothing quite like being vomited on when you’re having a very bad day…), and I go, REALLY…?!  But on days like these, I make sure I go for a run because I know what I will feel like, mentally/emotionally and physically, afterwards.  Like a brand new frickin’ women, that’s what.

As a runner, I am not fast.  I do not go far (yet).  Running is not easy, and has especially not been easy for me.  I seem to be prone to injury and if I am not careful about how I build my miles, I can become injured very quickly.  And for a runner, or any athlete for that matter, there is nothing worse than sitting on the sidelines and not doing insert-sport-here because of an injury. So to avoid that scenario, I go slow.  I take into consideration how many miles I’ve done in the week, and adjust my weekend run accordingly.  I listen to my body.  If I am feeling exceptionally tired on a running day, I may take the day off and plan to run the next day instead.  I think that as long as I’m doing it, and doing it consistently, then I’m doing alright.

I run because I can.  I actually have a number of people in my life who physically, for one reason or another, cannot run.  Some even have trouble walking or standing, making running out of the question.  So you can be extra sure that I think of those people every time I’m out for a run.  Yes, its hard and it hurts my body, but in a good, I’m-getting-stronger kind of way. Emotionally and physically, running strengthens me the way it cannot strengthen others, and I cannot tell you how truly grateful I am for that gift.

So when people look at me like I’m a bit crazy and ask things like, “Why run?  What’s the point?  You’re not going anywhere, right, just around the block?  Why bother?” (and yes, I’ve had all of those things said to me)  I tell them that I run because it’s what makes me, me.  It clears my head, helps me think.  It builds emotional and physical strength and endurance.  It takes commitment and time.  It is rewarding and gratifying, but not in an instant.  It is humbling.  When I run, I am all the things I hope I can still be when I’m not running – the best version of myself that I have to give.  And when I’m out there, every step brings me closer to being that best version – and who doesn’t want that for themselves (and by extension, their family/friends/people around them)?

This Sunday, runners from all over the world will participate in the New York City marathon.  One of my running goals is to qualify for and run in this, the world’s largest marathon.  If you happen to find yourself flipping through the channels on Sunday, have a look for a few minutes.  It might not be the most thrilling thing to watch (hello, NFL Sundays) but maybe you’ll have a new appreciation for the runners you see.  Or at the very least, a much better idea of why they’re doing it.

4 thoughts on “The Keeper of My Sanity.

  1. Wow Jess, makes me wish I’d never stopped running! It also makes me want to start again, after SO many years of not running, and being almost 62! But biking makes me feel like this, except I never realized it;) You are inspiring me girl!


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