"If you run, you are a runner. It doesn't matter how fast or how far. It doesn't matter if today is your first day or if you've been running for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just run." ~ John Bingham
There are days where lacing up the shoes and hitting the pavement for a run comes easy. Those are usually days when the sun is shining, friends are joining me or there is the reward of a dark chocolate mocha or other beverages at the end of the trail. Then there are the days that the idea of heading out the door for a run is the last thing I feel like doing. It is on those days that I reflect on the reasons I started running.
Training to run a half marathon for me represents freedom, freedom to make my own choices. In that freedom I have found courage and confidence to accomplish any challenge I take on. Running is a temporary vacation from reality where you can be alone with your thoughts and clear your mind. Running teaches you to overcome adversity. Yes running is hard, painful at times, but in staying the course and finishing the race there is an incredible sense of accomplishment.
Yesterday I completed my 10th half-marathon. I will be honest and say that one of the reasons I run is because I like pizza and beer (and a few other food and beverages)! However, I am reminded that there are many people out there who would give anything to be in my shoes on this day. I had planned to run my 10th race last year as part of my "50 in 50th year" birthday celebration, but my life was interrupted (read my blog on this here). I have run road races with runners who have prosthetic legs and I think of the obstacles and hardship that they had to overcome just to be able to walk let alone run a half-marathon. I have seen many runners go down with injuries during the race and be unable to finish. I have ran races where people have died.
When originally registering for this race it was to be a group event with four of my fellow running friends. As race day approached two of my fellow runners were unable to participate due to their own life interrupted events that didn't allow them time to train. As I ran my race yesterday, I had some cramping in my calf muscles early in the race. This slowed me down early and I had to stop and stretch a couple of times. As I passed the mile marker 3, one of the volunteers came up to me on his bicycle and asked how I was doing. We exchange some light hearted humor about slowly making my way to the finish line. He then said to me " It looks like you are the last runner". What? So, I look behind me and......there was no one else in sight (I would later learn that there were other runners behind me). Perhaps this volunteer was sent by God as my "kick in the butt" but lets just say that by the turnaround point of the race, I had moved up in the pack!
As I made my way to the turnaround point, I was greeted by cowbells (because we always need a little more cowbell!) and cheering me on was another running friend, a cancer survivor who last year at this time was preparing to enter the hospital to undergo a bone marrow transplant. She was cheering myself and others on as we passed the midway point of the race and turned the corner towards the finish. Her enthusiasm for our success was heightened by the fact that she not only knows the exhilaration of the race, but is a true overcomer in the ultimate race -- the human race.
As I approached mile marker 10 I began to feel the effects of admittedly not putting in the number of training miles I should have. My feet were hurting, there was cramping and I really had to mentally fight through. As I approached mile marker 11, I looked up to see my fellow running partner coming to run alongside me to the the finish line.
Running has taught me many things. Certainly it has taught me discipline, courage, determination and perseverance. The best lesson running has taught me has been in the experience of human connection. While we may not be running a race each day we need to be reminded that we are all indeed part of the human race where kindness, compassion, grace, service, gratitude and good will, are all important on the pathway of life. In life, there is no finish line, it is all about the connections we make with others on the journey.
So, I will continue to lace up my running shoes and withstand whatever obstacles or interruptions come may way. I will push my body as hard as it will go for 13.1. The simple answer to why I run? Because I can!