Why I Run?

Why I Put Myself through the agony of a Marathon?   From Deseret News
To see me after a marathon is to see agony walking. Oh sure, the first few seconds after crossing a finish line I’m all smiles and thumbs up. But give me five minutes and you can turn that smile upside down.
It’s not just me, either. The last three miles of the marathon are agony for most. Just look at the sides of the roads. All those people giving high-fives along Mile 4 are dragging their heels at Mile 24. There are more than a few tears when runners realize at Mile 25 that they don’t just have one mile to go. It’s 1.2. That .2 is a very big deal.
That’s just race day. Before you even toe the starting line, there’s all that training. Those leisurely Saturday mornings spent eating pancakes? Yeah, they’re gone. Replace them with pre-dawn wake-up calls and a few packets of GU washed down with a little Powerade. Tasty.
Why run a marathon? Why not stick to shorter distances that allow more time for pancakes in the morning?
After those long training runs comes the recovery. There’s nothing like a chilly ice bath on a frigid winter morning to wake you up — and the rest of the house, too, if you scream a little upon entering those icy waters. Most people do.
So why run a marathon? Why not stick to shorter distances that allow more time for pancakes in the morning?
Someone asked me this very question on my flight home from New York last week. Maybe it was the airplane air, but I admit I was stumped for a moment. Running can hurt. Muscles ache. Toenails are lost. Lungs burn.
But I do love marathons and my reason is simple: I run marathons because the payoff is huge. That saying, “Where much is given, much is expected,” rings so true when it comes to covering 26.2 miles.
I give a lot in my training — time, energy, focus. But for everything I give, I get back ten times more.
First, I get confidence. I was never athletic growing up. I was the girl in high school who would find any and every excuse to sit out of gym class. No one who knew me then would ever guess that I run even two miles, much less 26.2.
I’ll never forget my first long run. It was 10 miles and it was hard. I came home, fell to the floor and stayed there for a good half hour. The kids could have pelted me with Cheerios and I wouldn’t have flinched. Even today my quads hurt just thinking about that overcast Sunday morning. But as much as my legs begged for mercy, I had a smile pasted to my face the rest of the week. I was strong. I was capable. I could do this and more.
Second, I get instant gratification. Parenting is noble work. The most important work I’ll ever do will be raising my daughters. But most days are filled with the mundane. For every word of wisdom I bestow upon my little ones, there are ten eye-rolls, sighs of impatience, and even a few screams of discontent. Parenting victories come in spurts and sometimes those spurts are spaced pretty far apart. I’m sure one day my girls will thank me for the endless hours of driving, cooking, teaching, and nurturing I do, but today I do it with the badge of “Most Unfair Mom in the World”.
Running marathons, however, gives me instant satisfaction. The feeling I get when I see a finish line in the distance is golden. It’s worth every painful step, every pounding heartbeat, every strained breath. A little sweat satisfaction goes a long way. When I get that marathon medal, I feel like I’ve conquered Mt. Everest. If only they would make medals for mothering.
Third, I get clarity of mind. I’m not sure if there’s any science to back me up, but I swear that every time my foot hits the pavement, a little fog disappears from my mind. My life takes on a clearer perspective and problems find solutions. If only I had known this benefit back when I was taking the ACT.
Finally, running marathons offers me a sense of belonging. I’m a painfully shy person. It’s something I struggle to overcome to this day. But there’s something that happens when I stand amidst thousands of other runners who choose to run 26.2 miles with me. The movement of the legs loosens the tongue. I feel connected enough to these other athletes to run up to anyone on the course and strike up a conversation.
Most days I hear about how crazy/stupid/obsessive I am about running, but at the starting line, I find commonality and acceptance. These other runners know what the sport means to me. They know the lure of the road and the benefit of long, solitary hours out on the trails. I don’t have to explain myself to them. They are me.
Not everyone needs to run a marathon to feel such satisfaction. But it’s necessary for me. I’m willing to trade a few toenails and hours of sleep for the exhilaration of crossing just one more finish line.
If you find yourself cheering runners on during the last few miles of a marathon, don’t look at those limping masses with pity. Look at them with envy because what lies around the corner for them is priceless.