Today (June 1st) is National Running Day. I happen to be in NYC for work and was able to start my day with an early morning run through the streets of NYC and Central Park. (Check that off off my bucket list!) Knowing it was National Running Day I naturally began to reflect on WHY I run. It has been a large part of my life since my freshman year of high school. Although my reasons for running have changed over the years, one thing remains the same- I don’t know what I would do without it.
The summer before my freshman year one of my best friends convinced me to attend a meeting to learn more about the cross country team. I played along and attended the meeting. The coach was nice and very knowledgeable about the sport so I gave it a try. I instantly feel in love. I ran because it was a very social sport and the boys and girls teams shared the same coach. Although I couldn’t tell you what my PR was or how many medals I received, I can tell you that I had a blast with my team members. I went running through the mud, running in the rain, running from the boys on a Saturday night after toilet-papering their houses, running through our town on a scavenger hunt and running at the state meet 3 years in a row. I ran because it was fun.
Then came college. I was no longer a 4-sport-a-year athlete, so I continued to run to try stay fit. It was a losing game. The overall decrease in physical activity (combined with the increase of my food and liquid consumption) resulted in the “freshman 15”. But for me it was more like the freshman 20 or 25. The summer before my last semester, I received a flier for Team in Training. I wanted to revive my running routine so I attended an informational meeting. I signed up on the spot and was motivated and inspired to run for the first time since high school. My cousin Andrew lost his battle with Leukemia at a very young age so this cause was very close to my heart. With the help of my roommates who roller-bladed along side me, I trained for the Marine Corps Marathon. I also raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society by organizing a car wash, writing letters to my family and friends and making funnel cakes and selling them on campus. A month before my race, 9/11 happened. I was nervous to travel to D.C. as the anthrax scare had just happened, and the Pentagon had been attacked. I couldn’t imagine not running after months and months of training and fundraising, so I went. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband) was living in Atlanta and drove to D.C. to watch me run. The morning of the race he wished me luck and I nervously walked towards the sea of runners. A few minutes before we started I met a 40-something yr. old woman and we started talking. She was from D.C. and she was telling me what life had been like since 9/11. Next thing I knew we were a few miles into the run and we were still talking. Then we ran by the Pentagon. The massive hole in the side of the building was heart-wrenching. The construction workers had stopped working and were waiving American flags as we ran by. I looked at my running buddy and she had tears in her eyes too. We ended up running the entire marathon together and held hands as we crossed the finish line. I did it!!
After college, I moved to Atlanta to be closer to my boyfriend and found a teaching job. I contacted the local high school cross country coach to see if she needed any help. Not only did she appreciate my help, she quickly became one of my closest friends. When we weren’t coaching cross country and track together, we were finding a time to meet up and run, or get together and plan our up-coming weddings.
In 2006-2007 we moved to Chicago, bought a house, and had a kid. I ran until I was 8 months pregnant, but it wasn’t ideal. I couldn’t run as far or as fast as I wanted. After I received clearance from the doctor, I started running again. It felt so good to get back to my old routine, and it kept me sane in those early days of being a new mommy. It was MY time to think, vent to myself, clear my head, and of course lose that pesky baby weight. I ran because I could. I ran because I learned, for the first time in my life, that I can’t take running for granted.
Since having my 2 boys, I have logged a number of miles running 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons, 2 muddy buddy’s and 1 TRI (which I completed with my brother, cousins and uncle). This past Memorial weekend I caught wind of a local 5 and 10 k through Salute, Inc. which raises money for military families. I signed up the day before the race. On that foggy morning, hundreds of people from my local community were gathered together to run for a cause. I was a bit nervous as I hadn’t run a 10k competitively in a few years. I was unsure that I could still run at the same pace I had been able to years before. The gun went off and I weaved through the crowd towards the front of the pack. I caught up to a girl who seemed to be running a good pace. Our 2 mile split was just under 14 minutes. I knew I couldn’t keep the pace, so I backed off a bit. At mile 5 I felt a burst of energy and was able to catch her. I finished 12th overall and 1st in my age group. I was proud of myself. After the race I found my good friend who had run the 5k, and I was blabbering about my finish. Suddenly we noticed everyone was starting to clap, yell, and crowd around the end of the course. As we walked over to see what the commotion was all about, we saw him. Retired Marine Cpl. Yuriy Zmysly, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was about to finish the 5K. With the help of his physical therapist, he stood up out of his wheelchair and walked the last 100 yards. As we cheered him on I looked at my friend (she blogged about it here) and could see the tears in her eyes matched mine. It was a moment I will never forget. (For more information on Yuiry and his inspiring story, click here.)
So why do I run? I run because I can. I run because it’s fun. I run because I want to stay fit. I run because it helps relieve stress. I run because I want to inspire my kids to be active. But most of all, I run because (as evidenced above) it’s so much more than just running.
Why do you love running? I’d love to hear your story.