There is perhaps no simpler or more common question that a distance runner gets than, simply, “why?”
Why take on the hours? The sweat? The pain? The injuries? It's interesting, because no one ever asks these questions of ice skaters or baseball players or swimmers. But for some reason, the act of running – particularly over grueling distances – is mysterious to many people. Why would any sane person pound their feet on the pavement for mile after mile after mile when they could be doing…well…just about anything else?
And so. My answer. Ten reasons why I run long and often.
1. The Simplicity.
I once heard the worldwide popularity of soccer explained to me this way: You need two players, a ball, and something that can be pointed to as the goal. It is accessible to anyone.
Well soccer can hold running's beer – because you don't even need a ball or another person to run a marathon. You need your own legs. And nothing else. There are times when I've been out on the road breathing the air and clearing my mind for hours. And it strikes me that it hasn't cost me a penny. And I wonder why I don't do it even more often than I do.
2. The Clarity.
And speaking of clearing my mind. Nothing – and I mean nothing – works like a long run. I've talked so many times before about how running quite literally saved me at a time when I didn't have the emotional strength to sit still with my thoughts. I challenge you to find an issue that still feels pressing and insurmountable after a 4 hour run. Because at some point during those 240 minutes, your inner struggles are going to fall by the wayside.
3. It awakens me.
I can run the same road that I've driven 1,000 times and I will see something new every time. Colors are brighter. Sounds are more pronounced. My blood moves. I am fully awake. And it doesn't stop when the run ends. Running slays my exhaustion – both physically and mentally.
4. Strength and Vanity.
Vanity gets one line item on this list. And it deserves that and more. Running not only gives me legs I love. It gives me legs I respect. They are strong. They feel pain and keep going. They are more determined and powerful than I ever imagined before this journey began.
5. The People.
If you think running is solely a solo sport, you haven't been out there enough. I've all but carried friends over finish lines and I've been mentally pushed over them by teammates. They say run fast alone but run long together. They're right.
6. The Solitude.
That said – I'm a thinker and an introvert. I love my people but draw my energy from my time alone. The solitude of nothing but me and the pavement for hours on end has gotten me through more difficult times than all of the therapy (or meds or less noble vices) in the world ever could.
7. The Empowerment.
There is nothing more empowering than crossing a finish line that previously seemed utterly out of reach. Of hitting mileage that you never dreamed your body could achieve. Of taking those final steps at the end of a race and having that medal placed around your neck. We joke that it's all about the bling. But it's really about the story behind each piece of it.
8. It humbles me.
Running isn't about being the fastest among others. It's about overcoming your own perceived limitations. To do it right, you have to put blinders up to everyone around you. You cannot run well at someone else's speed. You cannot run someone else's race. In order to finish a marathon – much less a Dopey Challenge – I have to know how much I'll need left at the finish to cross that line. That means holding back and running smart. That means not chasing anyone else's pace or even maxing out my own. I am not a fast runner or a great athlete. I am just a girl who has learned to be humble enough to listen to her own body enough to know what she needs to get to the end.
9. It restores my faith in humanity.
They say that if you ever doubt the goodness of the human race, go cheer a marathon. We come together. We cheer the human spirit. We carry each other. We stand on the sidelines and clap for people we don't know because we know that it bolsters them forward. Races are a triumph of goodness over weakness. Of community over competition. It is impossible to run 26.2 miles amongst other runners, and cheered on by complete strangers, without leaving feeling really good about the state of the world around you.
10. I can.
I've been pretty open about the physical setbacks I've had recently that have made me question my ability to continue running. One day I won't be able to do this anymore. But today, it turns out, is not that day. So today I will run. Maybe a little slower. Maybe a lot more carefully. But I will run.
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You can find my definitive guide to a runDisney race weekend right here. And everything that you might want to consider bringing with you right here.