My first real relationship with an organized running program was during 8th grade when I, at the urging of a friend (who didn’t want to do it alone), joined my school’s track and field team. I had never run any distance greater than the fifty yards I used to dash during my Field Days in elementary school. I wasn’t too horrible at doing those dashes, so when considering whether or not to join my friend, I thought, “How hard could junior high school track be?” Ahem. My first run as part of the team was a two-miler along some of the hilly, poorly paved, country roads near my school. I soon discovered that not only does a short person (yes, like me) have to do double duty with footsteps in order to keep up with everyone else, but I also came to realize that I had the smallest lung capacity on the face of the planet. I had to stop and walk on several occasions just so that I could breathe. I learned what exercise induced asthma was all about and my legs were so sore afterward, that I could barely walk for the next several days.
I almost quit after that first practice, but thankfully, I didn’t. I am forever grateful that I sucked it up and pushed through it. It did get easier and after hitting my stride, so to speak, I came to realize that I was actually pretty good. In fact, I qualified for the state championships in the 800-meter run during my junior and senior years in high school. Winning races wasn’t the only benefit of running, though. It also helped me develop friendships and grow my self-esteem during the sometimes difficult years of my teenage life. Great memories were created during my time on the track team. I was totally hooked.
It is difficult to explain the love I have for running. For some people, running is only a means to an end. It is simply a method of getting into better shape or hitting that goal of completing a marathon. For them, running is not done purely for the love of running. I admit, there are things that I do not enjoy about this activity; like running in the pouring rain when my sneakers get so wet they literally squish out streams of water with every step I take, or running (slipping) on snowy, icy roads in the middle of a freezing New England winter. I especially don’t enjoy being chased by drooling, vicious teeth that are attached to otherwise cute dogs. However, I DO love the smell of wood smoke in the crisp autumn air as I kick up the colorful leaves along my route, the meditative state I get into while running and the happy, contented feeling that comes over me afterward (endorphins rock!), and I especially enjoy the unique camaraderie that runners have, even if we’ve never met.
This sport of placing one foot in front of the other for extended periods of time may not be for everyone, but it holds great value for me. It is a constant in my life. Even when I’ve had to take a break to recover from injuries or surgeries, running has always called me back and I have always answered. It is a grounding force that holds me together when life gets crazy. It is true love. That is why I run.