Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why I Run

"It doesn't matter how slow you go, as long as you do not stop."

Many of you probably know that I’m a runner. The definition of that varies day to day, from “person who jogs a few miles after school to clear her head” to “person who ate too many cookies over the weekend and needs to burn off some calories” to “person who is more than slightly insane to take on the elements on days when no one else is outside.”

This past weekend I fell into the third category. I ran a 5K (that’s 3.1 miles) with about 220 other insane people in temperatures that hovered around 20 but felt more like 5 with the wind chill. And as I headed up the last hill, lungs frozen and breath catching in my throat and legs feeling about one hundred pounds each, that familiar thought popped into my head: Why I am doing this?

Fortunately, that thought shows up quite a bit but never stays around long, because I know the answer.

I run because I always feel better when I finish. Maybe not always physically (though I’d say 80% of the time I do), but mentally and emotionally? Always. I know there’s a physiological explanation for it: the endorphins shoot off inside my brain like little drugs and give me some kind of high. But it still amazes me that the simple act of moving can change my mood 180 degrees.

It amazes me that when I cross the finish line of whatever race I’m running, whether I’m first in my age group or somewhere in the middle of the pack or near the end, I feel such a sense of accomplishment. It amazes me that I feel most beautiful when I am sweaty and flushed, with my hair stuck to my face and a t-shirt stuck to my back.

I wish more people could experience it. I hope, if you’re not a runner, you have something that revs you up, that chases away your blues, that inspires your creative juices, the way running does for me.

It’s so simple: put on a pair of running shoes and step outside. Yet it’s so complex: it changes your body, your mind, your spirit. Because if you can run ______ (fill in the blank here: to the mailbox, down the street, a mile, a 10K, a marathon), imagine what else you might do.

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