One of the most common questions I’m asked is “Why do you run?” or another common variation of the question, “How do you do it?” When I hear questions like this, I can’t help but smile to myself. I think a lot of people believe running is one of the hardest things in the world. Many can’t imagine how I go on a three, four mile run and how I get through it. But to me, running has been one of the consistently easiest things in the world.
I remember my first run like it was yesterday. I decided to go out for the cross country team and I was at try-outs. My then-coach shouted “And….GO!” I started out slow, one foot in front of the other. I didn’t realize my speed then. By the time I was halfway done, I began to speed up. I was passing people one by one until I was at the front. How did I get here?
Running came naturally to me, and before I knew it, I was coming in first for my school at all of the meets, sometimes even winning first place overall. I had never really been good at anything in my life before, so I took in each race and treasured each win. I was happy I enjoyed something that many people look at as really tough. It made me feel strong. And I loved winning.
Sure enough, high school came along, and even with the longer distance, I exceled. What really helped me to succeed was my mentality. That’s all running really is. It’s a little bit of conditioning and the rest is mental. I didn’t think about the race, or how far I was into the race, I simply ran. That’s it. And that’s how I succeeded.
The finish line was always my favorite part. The cheering, the finish line in the distance, and the clock always carried my legs faster than I could ever imagine. The last minute of the race was the best feeling in the world. To this day, I’ve never had adrenaline rushes that compare to the rushes I got in my races.
As the years went on, it was clear I wasn’t enjoying running anymore. I ran because I felt like I had to, not because I wanted to. The races began to give me so much anxiety it would be hard to sleep the night before. My mentality would mess with me in races and I wouldn’t push myself as hard as I could go. It crushed me to feel defeated. But I still ran.
The end of my competitive running career did not commence the way I was hoping. My races averaged a minute and a half slower compared to my freshman and sophomore year races. I didn’t look at running the same way. It didn’t give me the endorphins it used to. I chose not to run in college, which came as a disappointment to many. But truly, I felt relieved.
Through college, I barely talked about my running career. I was disappointed in how it ended for me and how I couldn’t enjoy a simple three mile run anymore. I didn’t run one race, and I never really ran around the city.
Nearly five years after finishing my competitive running career, I decided it was time for me to change my mindset. Running has been a part of my life for over ten years, and it was time for me to love it again. But it would be for a new reason.
After graduating college, I picked up running again. Regularly. What I’ve always appreciated about running is how effortless it feels to me. No matter how rusty I am. It’s such a familiar feeling.
When I run now, it’s like old times. I don’t think. I just enjoy my surroundings and keep putting one foot in front of the other. It feels good. It feels even better knowing that I can put my past behind me and appreciate the sport that pushed me and continues to push me mentally and physically.
Why I ran in high school and middle school is completely different from why I run now. I run now not because I have to, but because I want to. It feels easy. It calms me when life throws its twists and turns. It’s one of the few constants I have in life, and I’m grateful for it.
So while some may laugh or seriously question how I can run, I think back to all of the amazing memories running has given me over my lifetime and all of the accomplishments I’ve celebrated—whether it be winning a 5k or motivating myself to go on a five mile run. I run because it’s given me more than I could ever imagine.