Running is a gift to me. I started running at the age of 29. After a life of not connecting with my athletic self, I joined a team and started training for marathon. My journey to running was rife with the lack of desire to run, the belief that I could not run, and the pain of starting to run. In the years since I started running, many years ago, there have been peaks and valleys, successes and failures, and stops and starts. Through it all, running has been a gift. Personal bests. Personal worsts. The sunshine. The rain. The cuss words. The tears. The smiles. The sunrises. The birds. The dolphins. The leaves. The roses. The races. I hold my head a little higher each time a year passes and I am able to put my shoes on, jump outside, press start on my watch, and get going, I am transported to a powerful place where I am headed in the right direction, in control of a small sliver of a chaotic world, and building strength to meet challenges come my way. Things make more sense when I run.
The gifts of running
Connect to the outdoors
Running has always allowed me to connect to the outdoors. Whether Hill Country roads in Austin, Rock Creek Park in Washington DC, or riverside trails in Cincinnati, or Brickell Key in Miami, nature has been the through line of what has brought me pure joy over the years. When other aspects of my life have left me tied to a computer and desk and chair, running has set me free to be connected to the natural world. When I have been forced to train on a treadmill, by weather or a busy schedule, returning to the outdoors makes running something I want to do rather than have to do.
Feel like steel
Running makes me feel like steel. When I was training for my first marathon, I ran for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, then 30 minutes, and eventually 7 hours. Reaching each milestone, and completing a marathon, made me carry my head a little higher, made my back a little straighter, made life in general more manageable, and made goals more attainable. Each starting line is a personal statement that I am a person who shows up. Each finish line is a personal statement of what is possible.
The shoes are always there
When I feel down. The shoes are always there. When I need to breathe fresh air and sunshine. The shoes are always there. When there is a problem that needs sorting out through the rhythm of the road. The shoes are always there. When I am feeling great and want to celebrate. The shoes are always there. I have often heard it said that putting your shoes on is the first big step. The shoes are there. I can always hit the road.
Distance running has taught me the value of pacing and preparation. Because I have ever been fast at anything, especially running, I have had to focus on the endurance piece if the running equation. In a half marathon, I don’t run as fast as I can in the first 5k. I have learned how to spread my energy out over the entire race. I have also learned that training and preparation prior to the race, makes finishing strong possible. Having raced both well trained and not well trained, the value of training and knowing (and respecting) your pace is important.
Do what you love
Loving to run has been a huge surprise. I would not have predicted it while I was growing up. At some point, after I started to run, I started to take stock of the things that make me feel good, the things that made me feel powerful, the things that brought me peace. I came to running at a time of intense questions and found answers. Everything I need is in me. Running taught me that. I have learned that because I love it, I always want to do it, I always come back to it, and it has been a constant. Find and do what you love.