WHY I RUN
We all have our reasons why we lace up our running shoes day in and day out. For some it’s as simple as “I’ve always run.” For me, it’s far more personal and I hope you’ll indulge me.
In the summer of 2008, my life was not in a good place for several reasons. First and foremost, I had to endure not one, not two, but three family health scares in just two months.
My mother had a rare heart condition that required her to have open-heart surgery… fortunately she pulled through like a trooper. Just a few weeks later my dad learned he had serious blockage in numerous arteries (caught just in the nick of time) and had several stents installed to keep his ticker ticking. And then my brother (who was the jock of the family) went in to get his heart checked and they found something wrong. Fortunately, a re-test showed that it was a phantom reading. Bullet dodged.
Naturally, my family looked to me to make sure my heart was firing on all cylinders. One nuclear stress test (and a shaved chest) later, I happily learned that my heart was in tiptop shape. The rest of my life… not so much.
I was 35 pounds overweight, stuck in a demanding job that I did not like and it was taking its toll on me physically and emotionally. On top of that, I was in a relationship that was far less than ideal. I was spending all of my energy doing everything for everyone else. I had nothing left for me and it showed.
One lucky day I saw an ad for the Nike Human Race (a 10K) that was going to take place at night on Aug. 31st. I decided on a whim to run the race and if I liked it I’d do something crazy… I’d train to run a marathon. At the time I figured it was a pipedream that would probably fall by the wayside, but why not entertain the notion.
Race day (or should I say night) came and as I pounded the pavement I found this Zen-like peace that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I finished the race with a slow, but respectable time. So, I checked into training programs and found AIDS Marathon (now known at Team to End AIDS). I went to an informational meeting and even did a first run, not sure if I would stick with it (6 months of training is a long time after all). Then the bottom really fell out of my life.
In a short time span I found out my girlfriend had an entirely different definition of what “monogamy” means… and on top of that I got laid off at work. So here was this overweight, emotionally crushed, unemployed and depressed guy looking for an outlet… something to keep his world from spiraling utterly out of control.
So I ran.
I dove head first into the marathon-training program. Even on those days that I had no other reason to get out of bed, I got dressed and ran. When the silence of my apartment was deafening, I ran. When I felt sorry for myself, I ran. As you can imagine, I ran a whole lot.
I have no doubt that running pulled me out of one of the darkest times in my life and gave me a goal to chase. It saved me.
On May 25th, 2009 I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. It was the toughest physical thing I had ever done to that point. I hit the wall hard at mile 18 and practically limped to the finish line with a time of 5:40:29. But the time didn’t matter… I had finished what I had started. And I did it for me.
When I crossed the finish line I started crying tears of joy. The man who completed the race was not the same man who had first laced up his shoes six months prior. I was 35 pounds lighter and had regained my smile.
And I haven’t stopped in the 5 years since. Thanks to running I weigh less than I did in college and am in the best physical shape of my life.
As of June 2nd, 2014, I’ve run 8 marathons, 26 halfs and over a dozen 10Ks (I’ve got 20 races lined up to complete in 2014).
I plan to keep putting my left foot in front of my right and running for the rest of my life.
Now, if you ever run into me at a bar, ask me why I run. I’ll buy you a beer and tell you to pull up a chair. I hope you’ll indulge me and act like you haven’t heard it before, because it is my favorite story to tell… it’s long, but it does have a happy ending.
And who doesn’t love happy endings?
(Please share your stories of why you run)