So I used to be one of those people that thought runners were crazy. The whole idea of moving your legs back and forth in a pace faster than walking just seemed ridiculous to me. But then I gained the typical Freshman 15 my freshman year and went through a really bad break-up my senior year of college, and both of those led me to rely in running to blow off steam/the extra weight, etc. Also, when I lived in the D.C. area, I had a free membership with the National Press Club, and running from their gym to the Ellipse in front of the White House and then around the monuments made running that much more awesome.
That all being said, I learned to first appreciate running, which slowly led to me loving it. Running provides a feeling of personal achievement unmatched by almost anything else. Plus, it provides the perfect way to think/release stress/enjoy yourself. I started slowly running longer distances in the spring of my senior year and then again in the spring of my first year of graduate school. There are many things I am proud of in my life, and one of them is the feeling of successfully running up hills that used to cause me to stop, run out of breath, or essentially hate my life. Part of the reason I started pushing myself harder and harder while running was remembering what my dad, a former triathlete, told me once: “If you can push yourself when running long distances, you can push yourself to do anything.” I like to repeat this to myself when a run gets hard, and this, along with the awesome feeling of finishing a long run, is what helped me to become a better runner and to enjoy it more and more.
In the same spirit of enjoying the feeling of accomplishing something, I decided to train for a half-marathon this past Spring. Not to win, or to show off, but just to do it. Training kicked my ass. About halfway in, I was having to run close to 20 miles a week, cross-train, all while taking and teaching classes. My body was exhausted all the time, and running slowly started becoming what I needed to do, not what I enjoyed doing. I was constantly reminding myself why I was doing this in the first place, especially during a crappy run—and there were many during training. Even though I was suffering slightly from a swollen ankle toward the end of training, I completed the half-marathon, limping my way through the last three miles—but the first 10 miles were awesome and a complete rush.
The day before the race, my good friend Alex, who happens to be an incredible runner, called me with some advice and to wish good luck. She has always been an inspiration to me when it comes to running (and other things too, this girl is awesome), and after the race was over and I returned to my usual exercise schedule, I kept her words in mind. It was such a relief and also confusing feeling when I realized that I didn’t have to run 20 miles a week, or 8 miles at a time—I could run for however long I felt, stop when I felt like it, or not even do it at all if desired. To make sure I successfully transferred back to enjoying running, I stopped timing myself while running. I allowed myself to take breaks if I needed them. And I reminded myself to enjoy what I was doing.
That’s why yesterday, when I got caught in a rainstorm during the end of my run (sprinkles at first and then hardcore down pour), I didn’t mind so much. I had stopped once earlier in the run to walk up a stupidly long hill, and I wasn’t pressuring myself to achieve a particular time. I was just doing what I loved about running when I first picked it up—enjoying running for the sake of running. And it was incredible and awesome and all those long words that mean essentially great things.