Why I Run 2.0

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!

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8 Comments

Filed under bloggy, goals, sentimental

8 responses to “Why I Run 2.0

  1. Good luck!! I get where you’re coming from – this whole idea of the community of running is sort of what got me hooked on it in the first place. There’s just this entire running culture that I never even knew existed until last year. I really love being part of it and I look forward to hearing more about YOU being part of it too.

    And, congrats on finishing your second half!!

    • Thanks, Jess! I enjoyed hearing about your experiences too, so I hope you keep it up! For me, running is not addicting. But socializing is, so whatever works! :)

  2. Good for you! I have friends that train to run our local marathon. I trained way back in the day but was injured by a girl larger than me, though not faster, on the soccer field. (She knew she couldn’t stop me if I got that ball so she got my leg and hyper-extended my knee with her kick).

    Now I’m a lazy treadmill-reader Gal. Keep up the great work. It was always herder for me to get started but I felt so empowered at the end of a good run. :-)

    • Hey, treadmill running is not lazy! I hate the treadmill because it mocks me when I want to slow down the pace! (Okay, so it doesn’t really . . . but I feel like it does.) And yes, finishing is way better than starting!!

  3. That’s harder, not herder. Though I do herd children and domestic animals from time to time. :-P

  4. b longfellow

    I like your conclusion and find it has been true for me in many ways as well: though I’ll occasionally go through two or three weeks of losing my motivation and not running at all, a weekly trail run with two friends keeps me from abandoning exercise completely and often restarts the enthusiasm for the habit when I have forgotten how much I enjoy it. We’ve been doing these runs weekly for two years! Sadly, they’re both leaving K.C. in a few months, so a demanding test of my self-discipline is on the horizon.

    That said, I’ve noticed when I run races I’m so intent on achieving that I rarely make efforts at friendliness or brief community while I’m on the course. It happens occasionally, and I’m always grateful, but mostly I just pass or am passed in silence. Just yesterday, I thought of this as I ran a race in which all my hoped-for goals gradually frizzled themselves away and I was left wondering why and how I should run the rest of the race (okay, walk) since the reasons I was there in the first place no longer applied. And I thought, maybe in the future I should stop trying to run to race or compete; maybe I should just get out there on the course and go at whatever pace and say hi and talk to people or encourage them or just simply be observant. I thought those things yesterday when I felt miserable. Today, I feel much recovered and think, okay, but not yet :)

    • Is your trail run with Nick and Brad? Sucks that they are both moving. :( But I have full confidence in your ability to maintain your current level of exercise – mostly because I need to keep a long-distance-running friend in the queue so that I don’t always have to suffer on my 7 milers (and above) alone!

      When I have actually run races, I have not really been engaged by or engaged other people. People are too concerned with time and competition on race day. I have heard of strangers forming bonds during long races, but I myself have not experienced it. I also have only done 2 long races, and I have not done them alone. Perhaps if I ran one alone, I might find myself in a different boat. But probably not – I would probably just be passed by people like you. :)

      I WILL say, however, that as a runner with marginally less talent than most other runners out there, I do always appreciate when the elite runners (or anyone else who is better than me) who finish first stick around and cheer on those of us who are struggling a bit more. But . . . I say that, and yet I have never myself stuck around at the finish line after I’VE finished, to cheer on the stragglers who finish after me. Guess it should be a two-way street . . . or something.

  5. b longfellow

    you should stick around sometime. or go to a race you’re not running just to watch others finish. it’s become one of my favorite parts. i get more emotional then than when i’m still out there running.

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