Actual Reasons Why I Run
1. I run because I hate being inefficient.
I like being able to sprint across a parking lot and not be out of breath. I like getting from floor 1 to floor 5 of an office building and not be clinging to the handrail by floor 3. I value efficiency. My body is no exception.
2. I run because the human body is capable of some amazing things.
Ever heard of ultra-marathons? These races make the Boston Marathon look like a quick jog around the park. Some of these races can last for days — days — spanning sometimes hundreds of miles. And people run them. There’s a man who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days. People climb Mt. Everest and swim the English Channel and push Mack trucks uphill. The human body is capable of some incredible feats, and I feel like I’m wasting the gift I’ve been given if I spend my time sitting around and being idle.
3. I run because of the zombie apocalypse.
This one is somewhat facetious, but with a serious point underneath. Pretending to run from zombie attacks is entertaining. In fact, I have a fitness app on my phone where I go on missions and sprint away from zombies during my everyday run. But, in all seriousness, I run because, in the event of an emergency, I want to be able to do what I need to do to survive, and to help others survive. If I need to run across a battlefield or away from a collapsing building, I want to know I can be able to do it.
4. I run because endorphins are the best free drug.
Some studies suggest that runner’s high is akin to illicit drug use in terms of effects on your brain. Don’t believe me? Go run for a few hours. Notice how the world starts morphing around you. Notice how surreal things start to get around mile 12. Endorphins + adrenaline = free high.
5. I run because I need to meditate, but can’t.
This one is probably the most important reasons why I run. The biggest problem with a creative brain is that it never shuts off (and I’m going to be so bold as to call myself a creative type). For crying out loud, my brain continues to run a mile a minute even when I sleep (just ask my husband. I chat, walk, sing, explore, even pontificate in my sleep).
I’ve tried meditation before, and it’s just not for me. I can achieve a solid 10 seconds of not thinking about anything when I’m in the middle of a serious yoga class, but that’s the extent of it. Give my brain a chance to think and it will. Oh, it will:
“Hey, did you get groceries yet?”
“Hey, remember that time, you said that thing, and it was embarrassing?”
“Hey, after meditation, you should go to the gas station.”
“Hey, remember that time, you did that other thing, and it was really embarrassing?”
“Hey, what’s that song you know, the song that goes like this: da da, da-da-da, da da, da-da-da…”
“Hey, do you think you have any text messages? You know how you get about responding text messages.”
“Hey, remember that time, when that person did that thing, and it really upset you?”
“Hey, did you remember to turn the coffee maker off?”
“Hey, what’s the next chapter in your book going to be about? Maybe you should do a flashback. Or a driving scene. Does the main character fight with another character in this scene? Maybe they should. Or hint at that they want to. But they don’t. What do you think???”
This doesn’t necessarily go away at first when I run. In fact, that chatterbox is front and center, paired with a whining voice that doesn’t exactly get why we’re running in the first place (as well as a de-motivational voice who says things like, “Hey, you just ran 2 miles. Good enough! Let’s go home and eat some chicken nuggets.”)
And they stay there, for Mile 1, Mile 2…but somewhere around Mile 3 or 4, their voices get a little softer. Mile 5, and I can barely hear them. By Mile 6, it’s all about me, my music, and my run. And that’s why I lace up my running shoes, even when I don’t feel like it. That’s why I’m striving to run 10 miles in a typical day. That’s why I hope to someday run the Chicago, the New York, and, most importantly, the Boston Marathon. Because I find my Zen when I run. And because every other attempt to find it else pales in comparison.
6. I run because of my city.
As a Bostonian, I thought I already knew what it was like to survive a terrorist attack in America. I was 14 when 9/11 happened, and I already had such a huge place in my heart for New York City – particularly the Twin Towers. I thought I knew what it felt like to have a place you could call home get attacked. But then it happened in my own city. In a neighborhood I lived in for years. On a road I walked down a million times. Bombs that blew out windows in buildings I knew by heart. I watched as the place I was born in, the place I went to school and work, the place where I found and lost love, the place that I knew as well as my own self, get gated off. I watched as everything shut down that following Friday, when there was no music on the radio, no shows on the TV. Just the sounds of helicopters overhead and a constant stream of useless updates on the lockdown. I learned that week what vulnerability really was, and just how much I loved my city.
And now I run because that’s the Boston thing to do. We’re a city with a history of not backing down. We’ll show you tough. We’ll show you resilient. The Boston Marathon was always a distant pipe dream for me. And now, even just training for a marathon — when I originally couldn’t push myself past 5 miles — is my way of showing just what this Irish Bostonian is made of, just how unafraid Boston at large is. Every mile logged is another bit of proof.
Reasons That Are Actually Non-Reasons Why I Run
7. I don’t run to lose weight.
But, isn’t this why anyone does any exercise? Because we’re obsessed with lowering that stupid little number?
I can’t tell you the last time I weighed myself. But, from the few times I have (and the times I’ve been weighed at the doctor’s), I can say I hover between 145 and 155 lbs. I don’t even like talking about my weight, because people are so obsessed with the number that they actually think there is something intrinsically valuable about the number itself. People hear that I weigh around 150 lbs and flip out, telling me that I’m “too skinny” to be 150, ignoring the part that I’m 5’11”. All they see is “150” and the attribute all sorts of connotations to the number itself – positive or negative – without factoring in things like height, weight distribution, muscle, and overall health.
I enjoy being fit. I enjoy feeling efficient and strong and ready to tackle whatever physical obstacles come my way. But I have absolutely, positively, no interest in losing weight. In fact, I hope to gain weight – in muscle form. I want to change a pound of fat into two pounds of muscle. I want to watch my calf and thigh muscles grow as my legs continue to develop into lean, mean, running machines. I give zero shits about the “thigh gap” – and, to be frank, the only time I care about my thighs being so big that they touch (and honestly, for about 85% of you women out there, whose thighs DON’T touch?) is when I’m worrying about chafing during my longer runs.
8. I don’t run to win races.
The BAA Half Marathon was last week. The winner finished the 13.1 track in almost exactly an hour. He was off by a whopping 34 seconds. Think about that for a second: he ran at essentially 13.1 miles an hour – for an hour. If I get enough coffee in my system, I can sprint 13 miles an hour for about twenty seconds.
People finish marathons in as little as two hours, which is about 1/3 of what I expect my first marathon to take me. People finish 10ks in 30 minutes or less. I don’t run to win races because, frankly, those people are in a league of their own and I am, at best, tailgating in the parking lot outside of said league.
I also don’t run to win races because I feel like that eliminates the whole point of long-distance running. Crossing the finish line takes a second at most. One second compared to thirty minutes of running, an hour of running, two hours of running. If I focus on running to win, my focus is on the finish line. Then all that talk about finding my Zen is out the window because all I care about is the destination, not the journey. Might as well fret over embarrassing moments in my past and wonder if I closed the garage door behind me when I left that morning.
9. I don’t run so eat whatever I want.
As a society, we are also stupidly obsessed with food. So obsessed that many of us go to the gym thinking, “Chocolate cake and ravioli, chocolate cake and ravioli…” We go on the elliptical because we’re going out with friends that night and want to order extra drinks. We attend a Zumba class because we have a never-ending hankering for pastries. We have an extra slice of pizza because, “Whatever – I’m lifting weights tomorrow!” I used to work with a girl who proudly admitted that she only went to the gym so she could eat whatever she wanted.
I learned the hard way that, if anything, my diet becomes more restricted as I run. I might be eating more, but the food choices I’m eating become more and more narrow. Which is a good thing: I should be eating whole grains and fruits and veggies in the first place. But it’s a hard lesson to learn when you feel the Wendy’s chicken nuggets dancing in your stomach from the night before. Suddenly you’re nothing more than a race car made of meat, and the only thing you can accept is the organic equivalent of high-octane fuel.
10. I don’t run for bragging rights.
I’ll be the first to admit: when I run longer than I ever have before, my first thought is posting this bit of information on my various social networking profiles. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished and – hey – if people can post pictures of their drinks at a bar, I think I can post that I just ran 14 miles.
But running for bragging rights is an empty goal. And, really, no one likes a bragger. Yeah, it’s great that you ran a half marathon, but someone just ran a full marathon. Another person just completed a triathlon. Another ran an ultra-marathon. This dude over there has been running for 5 days straight. It’s not worth doing it if you only do it to show it off to other people.