June 6, 2012

Running: It's Who I Am

When I was a child, my family thought the way I ran was funny. My dad used to, as a joke, have me run on ahead of the family, and everyone would laugh at me.  I didn't mind; I'm sure I DID run funny, and I certainly wasn't an athlete. I didn't mind adding some amusement to family outings. I hated running, and hated all things athletic. I was always the last picked for teams in P.E. Running laps in P.E., whether it was in elementary school, junior high or high school was tortuous for me.

Well, who's laughing now?

I may not be the fastest runner out there, and I may not run the farthest distances....but I am a runner.

I am now 42 years old, and just completed my 13th half marathon. I have also completed one full marathon and a gazillion 5ks.  More than that, running is in my blood.  It's in my soul. It's who I am.  I am a runner.

I don't run every day; my body injures too easily for that.  I try to run 3 times a week (two short runs and one long run).  I cross train on the other 4 days of the week, swimming and cycling my little heart out, training for my triathlons.  I love biking and swimming, but running is my true love.  I am a runner first.

I don't remember the day I became a runner.  I started running in 1998, doing tons of 5ks, then doing my first half marathon in 1999.  I then quit running.  I started again in 2003, and took up running because I wanted to cross "run a full marathon" off my bucket list. I did, and quit running again immediately after.  I started to run again in the beginning of 2010, two and a half years ago, and I haven't stopped.  It's now a core part of who I am, and I can't imagine ever NOT running. When I'm injured I do everything I can to get back to running. I am a runner.

Not all runs are good.  Some runs suck.  Some runs hurt.  Some runs I feel like I'm slogging through, gasping for air, enduring all sorts of pain in my feet and legs.  But then there are the good ones.  The ones that feel like I'm literally flying, that my feet aren't touching the ground. The runs where I start upset about a problem, and come home with the solution all sorted out in my head.  The runs where I feel like I can run for miles and miles and miles.  Most runs, for me, lie somewhere in the middle.  Again, not all runs are good----but the great ones keep me coming back for more.

I don't run to lose weight, or to even maintain my figure (although I HAVE lost weight as a natural byproduct, going from a size 8 to a solid size 6---and now a size 4 in most clothes).  I started to run to be healthy.  My family has a horrific history of heart disease, on both sides of the family, and I woke up one day and realized I needed to do something to avoid that fate.  I also have osteopenia, which is one step above osteoporosis, and I decided that instead of taking medication, I would do life-style changes (calcium, vitamin D, and running).  Running is the ultimate weight-bearing exercise, which can increase bone density. Of course, there is no guarantee I won't have a heart attack, or develop osteoporosis, but I'd like to think I'm trying my hardest in terms of prevention.

I don't talk about it much in real life, because I think people would think I'm a freak, but I think about running often.  Actually, I think about it an awful lot.  I love to read blogs written by other runners, reading race recaps for races I've never run, run by people I've never met. It inspires me.  I get happy when my copy of Runner's World comes in the mail. Most importantly, I've connected with an amazing community of runners on Twitter and dailymile.  I love talking about my runs, and hearing about others'.  And I relate to my friends in real-life the most when they run, too. I have friends who hate running.  What?!? I can't fathom it. Not anymore.  The woman I've become is a runner.

I love other runners.  Not every runner is nice, and not every runner is someone I relate to, but by and large I think runners are the best people out there.  There are many communities I can relate to--women, moms, moms with kids with special needs, the Jewish community, heck, even triathletes--but put me in the middle of an expo before a race, or in the middle of the pack during a half marathon, and I feel at home.  Runners are my peeps.  I understand them, and they understand me.  I love talking about all things running:  training plans, races, shoes, injuries, gear.  Oh, the gear.  Only another runner understands getting up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday, when everyone else is sleeping in, to get their miles in.

Today is National Running Day, and fittingly, I celebrated with a run.  I went on a 21 mile bike ride with a friend, and then ran 2 glorious hot and hilly miles after, making a brick for my triathlon training and an ode to my beloved running.  Happy National Running Day, friends,  Run like the wind, and enjoy your miles. I know I did....because I'm a runner.


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