Coming up on a year ago, I wrote here about why I run. (If we are not Facebook friends, you won’t be able to get to that page.) At that time, I was barely two months into running. I was for sure not a “runner.” (Of course, if anybody asks today, I would adamantly say that I am still not a runner.)
I did two 5Ks last year and a half marathon. And yesterday I completed my second half marathon (or, as my friend J.R. says, “the rest of the marathon;” yeah, he’s a punk).
This time around, the training was a lot tougher. I discovered that I am not a train-through-the-winter type of person. And I discovered that running is a much more emotional sport for me than I ever realized. I found out that when I already felt emotionally down or drained, going on a run was not necessarily the best decision. Running – especially a long run – takes every ounce of emotional (not to mention physical) strength that I have. So if I set out to do a run and am already feeling emotionally poopy? Odds are, I’m going to feel that way and worse for most of the run.
The only time I really get a high from running is when I’m nearing the end. I want to be done so badly that it excites me to push myself harder just to get to the finish more quickly. But like I said, that’s the only time. The rest of the time, at least if I’m alone, I’m fighting a constant battle not to quit or give up or walk or (sometimes) cry.
Running is healthy. Running can be invigorating. Running can be a very positive experience, in the end. Once I finish a run, I never regret that I went out to do it.
But here is a truth that has liberated me since I allowed myself to admit it: Running is never going to be something that I love to do. I enjoy having gone on a run. I enjoy telling people that I do run. And I enjoy the progress I make – which is minuscule and not noticeable on every run. But I do not love to run.
So why do I do it? Most of the reasons I outlined last year are still true. It’s meditative; it’s metaphorical and symbolic; it’s a good chance to pray; it helps me battle insecurities.
But in the last three months I’ve discovered a new reason: Running is fellowship. Running is community. Last summer, I spent six months running mostly alone. Occasionally I was joined by friends but not often – definitely not as often as I would have liked.
But since December, I have been joined on various runs by several different people, and I have discovered something about the running world. Runners have embraced the idea of community and inclusiveness far more than most churches. Running with all these different people has allowed my friendships with each of them to blossom in new ways. For one thing, you can learn a lot about someone just from spending an hour running together. But more than just learning about someone – you’re creating a bond, a solidarity, a pact of mutual encouragement and endurance that is really difficult to get in any other situation.
I thought this half marathon was going to be all about running alone and learning how to motivate myself for 13.1 miles. But it wasn’t. I had a friend run with me – a friend who is far more athletic than I am and could have finished probably at least half an hour ahead of me. But she didn’t. She ran at my pace, and we did the entire 13.1 miles together.
Something else I learned from this race was how much more fun it is to run in your own city. I ran my first half marathon in Wichita and, as a result, had no one there to cheer specifically for me on the sidelines. But yesterday there were people at the start and finish lines and at various points along the course, all of them shouting my name and telling me I could do it. It was so empowering. I also recognized landmarks because I was running through my own city, and I crossed my own street. Running in Wichita and seeing new things was definitely fun, but it was rewarding in a different way to run at home, on streets I have trained on, hills I am familiar with, parks I have jogged through before.
I came away from yesterday’s half marathon knowing that I have to do another one. I love being this healthy and this in shape. But I know that unless there is some tangible motivation, something concrete I’m working toward, I will not be able to make myself run on a regular basis because it is not something I love to do. So I’m going to explore further this new-ish idea of running to build community – running with friends and strengthening relationships via physical exercise. And this time around, I’m going to train with the purpose of improving my time.
Wish me luck. No doubt you’ll hear about it along the way!