Why I Run

Photo by Andrew Merlino (2007)
This is one of those deep down, discovery discussions for one who has a large passion for running that they couldn’t live without it. To go one step further, it is one of those discussions for anyone who has a passion for anything should have.

Since I chose running and most likely you are someone who doesn’t know me, I must start at the beginning. Even if you do know me, you might not know the full picture of how I’ve evolved over time, so this might be a good read for you as well. I don’t really know. It could be too long for you to read since attention spans thin over time. Oh well. Bear with me.

My running history began as a 14 year old transitioning from middle school to high school. Knowing that I had no interest or build for football and the only thing going for me in soccer was my speed, not my technical skills, I figured cross country would be the way to start. Also my older brother was already running. It was clear I was a novice in running, coming in with no experience or any real training, also having a coach (which I realized 3 years after the fact) who really had no idea how to coach runners at all. My first practice of the season was 3xMile. I thought was doing pretty well after the first run at about 6:27, but boy, that faded as the next 2 reps I finished behind the slowest kid. Definitely eye opening. After that, nothing spectacular other than finishing the season as a top 10 runner on the team.

I think the real test came with indoor track, what I consider my first real taste of competitive running with a coach who actually knows running. If I thought I knew nothing about running after cross country, boy I really knew nothing after doing indoor track. Learning how to pace and be confident in your body while running laps was difficult and honestly I don’t really think I ever got the hang out during my career. Honestly, I think this was the season I discovered I liked to run. I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I loved the hard workouts and seeing the fruits of my labor with improved times. This was the season I suffered my first injury as well. Shin splints. To this day, the bane of my existence. I ran the last race of the season with that pain. A 5:52 mile. That was painful and a lesson learned in recuperation.

Coming back for the outdoor season with ample time to heal, it was what I considered my strongest season out of my entire 4 year running career. Vast improvements across the board and a real contributor to the team. Though another lesson had to be learned in fatigue. Definitely felt the end of the season exhaustion grinding it out. This season for sure, defined my work ethic for the future.

Speaking of the future, is there much to say for the next 3 years? Not really, other than the recurring theme was injuries. I was not actually talented  as runner and injuries ranged from the knees, back, hip, and the ever so recurring shins. I finished my career with a 4:48 mile, 10:43 2 mile, 2:56 1000m, 2:10 800, and a 58 400m. Good enough to score points, not good enough to be a state champion or national competitor. I’ll take the small rewards, I suppose.

So it’s 2017. Where am I now? While at 25 I am considered still in my athletic prime, I’ve become, what I consider, less than the casual runner. I’m even more fragile than I was at 18. Besides the shins, it’s the lower back, left achilles, right groin/hip, knees, etc. Jeez, I might actually be dying. Physical therapy has only ever gotten me to at least 80% recovery. What a waste of money. Let’s not even talk about surgery. You might as well just chop the limb off. You’ll have to pay a handful and still have to go to physical therapy anyway.

We now get to the actual “why” part after so much backstory. If I’m in so much pain and have no real goals to compete or anything like that, why am I even going out for runs at all? It’s a valid question. If I’m such a casual runner, the first answer would be that it’s a good fitness routine for me. It’s something I know and it’s easy for me to get into, albeit how painful it is. Now you may say, “There are other forms of exercise you can do that could be less painful”. You’re right! However, other forms of exercise are based on convenience and income. Biking? Have to buy a bike. Swimming? Need a pool or access to one. Elliptical, exercise bike, or rowing machine? Again, have to buy one, have room in a home to put it in, or pay for a gym membership, which I won’t do.

Ok, ok, let’s stop beating around the bush. Why do I run? I love it. I really do. I love the highs it gives you and love the absolute pains it shoves. It’s character building. I truly believe that I would be nothing if I had not picked up running. It taught me how to become a hard worker by making me discover what I needed to do in order to be successful. Now, I’m not talking about being a successful runner because I already told you I wasn’t, but rather being successful in all other factors of life. How to the be successful in work, with my friends, my family, all stemmed from how I learned to work hard in running. Now, running just serves as a reminder of what hard work feels like and that what I’m feeling now can be applied elsewhere. I’m not saying I need to be sweating and my heartrate needs to be highly elevated in my work, but it’s more of, how do I apply my motivation and focus in running, to what I need to get done by the end of the work day?

Could I have told you all that without all the backstory? Probably, but you might not understand what it took for me to get to my reasoning. I see a lot people I know who told me in the past running sucks, yet, years later, I’ll see them running 5k’s, half-marathons, and marathons as if they’ve loved running for years. I once told myself at 18, that I’d probably do those once. At 25, with my body breaking down into nothing, it’s probably unlikely. I’ll stick to taking the winters off from running to rehab, and struggle in the spring and summer to stay healthy casually running on the roads. It’s not the ideal compromise, but what I get out of it is always the same.

Also, remember I’m a running nerd. I watch track and field on TV like it’s Sunday Night Football.