Running lets me be… and other reasons for running

21 Sep

One of my co-workers recently asked me why I run, just what it is about the sport that I find so appealing.  There’s a part of me that understands where this question was coming from.  Back in my twenties, when I was smoking thirty a day, not caring what I ate, and generally leading an unhealthy, sedentery lifestyle, I would have been hard-pressed to get why anyone would voluntarily spend their Sunday morning running twenty or thirty kilometres.

When my co-worker asked the question, my response was, “Running allows me to just be.”  This is probably not a very satisfactory reply to be on the receiving end of, but it was the best I could come with at the time.  It’s an interesting question though, one that I will try to answer now.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are the top ten reasons why running is the sport for me.

1. I’m crap at tennis.  And baseball, and soccer, and pretty much everything else that requires hand-eye coordination.  I have to do something (trust me, I do – I have the kind of metabolism that works just fine when I exercise, but grinds to a screeching halt when I don’t), and the simple action of repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other is something that even I cannot screw up.

2. I’m very competitive with myself.  This is another reason I should never play tennis.  If I miss a shot or send the ball into the net, I get really mad – not at my oppononent for being better than me, but at myself for making a mistake.  Running allows me to channel my inner competitor by targeting personal best times.

3. You can run anywhere.  If you’re, say, a golfer, and you find yourself in a place with no accessible golf course, you’re pretty much S.O.L.  You can’t exactly take your golf clubs down to the nearest main road and start hitting the ball into traffic.  Well, you could, I suppose, but there would be a lot of broken windows and people thinking you were completely off your head.  As a runner, on the other hand, I can take my sport wherever I am.

4. You don’t need a lot of stuff. Tennis players and golfers have to lug around lots of bulky stuff.  And don’t get me started on hockey players – have you seen those bags they use to put all their kit ‘n’ kaboodle in?  You could stuff a dead body into those things and no-one would be any the wiser.  I could technically go to a race without even having to take a bag with me.  Shoes are on my feet, hat is on my head, fuel belt stocked with water, energy drink and gels is around my waist, race number is pinned to my shirt.  When I do take a bag, all it contains is a bottle or two of water and a sweatshirt to put on after the race.

5. You don’t have to join a team to participate in events.  With very few exceptions (such as the Boston Marathon, which you have to qualify for), I can sign up for pretty much anything I want. No-one cares how fast or how slow I am, and the only person who gives a damn what my finishing time is is me.

6. Runners have a great sense of fellowship with one another.  When I’m out on my long runs on Sundays, I always encounter several other runners.  I don’t know any of them from Adam (actually, I do – I have a friend named Adam, but you know what I mean), but we exchange waves, smiles, thumbs-up of encouragement. You feel a kind of kinship with those other souls out there who are pounding the pavement.  From time to time, I even receive shouts of encouragement from other runners who are not actually running at the time.  I know they are runners, because they say things like, “Great leg turnover!” or “Keep going and you’ll get that PB!”

7. You can get all kinds of cool stuff at running stores. Seriously.  You don’t just get shorts and shoes in running stores, you get all kinds of things. Fancy shoelace thingies, race number holders, fuel belts, gel bottles, reflective gadgets.  Watches, heart rate monitors, pedometers, things that hold your music player so you don’t have to.  Sunglasses. Recipe books. Hats – who knew there were so many different kinds of hats?  And that’s before you even get to the section of running clothes.

8. I get to use my Garmin.  This is kind of related to the previous point, but deserves a point all of its own.  I love my Garmin.  It’s a training watch that does everything but slice, dice and make the coffee. The built-in GPS tracks distance as I’m going, so I can make adjustments to my route on the fly. The “virtual partner” tells me at a glance whether I’m running on target, or whether I need to slow down or pick up the pace.  The heart rate monitor is a barometer of whether I am in good shape.  And when my run is done, the watch starts sending data to my computer as soon as I’m within range.  By the time I sit down, there’s a new window open on my computer that has all of the run data, including my times for each kilometre, and a nifty little map of where I’ve run.

9. The feeling I get at the end of a race or a long run is phenomenal. Part of it is the sense of accomplishment at having finished the run, part of it is the “runners high” that gives you a general sense of wellbeing and happiness. When I’m nearing the end of a run and eeling really rough, I motivate myself my reminding myself how great I will feel fifteen or twenty minutes from now.

10. Running allows me to see a thought through to its completion.  I am a mom.  I a mom of two young boys, both at demanding stages of their development.  When I am at home, any thought I start to have in invariably interrupted by something that sounds like this: “AAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!  Mommy!  George won’t let me play with the Lego!” followed by an assortment of thumps and bumps and slamming doors.  When I’m running, I can actually formulate plans, generate ideas, compile shopping lists, decide what to wear to work the next day. If it wasn’t for those five-times-a-week runs that happen at ridiculously early hours of the morning, I would probably go completely barmy.

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