We all started running for different reasons, even if it’s not the same reason we run now.
As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, today is National Running Day, or a day devoted to celebrating the reason or reasons we all run. Naturally, it got me to reflect about why I lace up my shoes and get out the door (almost) every day, and how those reasons have evolved throughout the course of my 16-year involvement in the sport.
I started running in high school, taking up track the spring of my sophomore year with the idea that it would help my speed and quickness for my true love, basketball. The following fall I joined the cross-country team with the same objective: improve my athleticism — in this case, endurance — to prepare for the long basketball season over the winter.
Well, long story short, one thing led to another, competitiveness took over, that basketball season never happened, I joined the indoor track team, and before I knew it I had traded in my Nike Flights for a pair of adidas Osweego trainers and Nike Zoom Rival track spikes. And minus a couple of untimely injuries (then again, when are they ever timely?), I haven’t stopped running since.
The competitive side of the sport is where I got my start in running — and over time, the reason I kept running — during my final two years of high school, through college and for eight years out of school until last spring, when I decided, or perhaps more accurately, realized, that I didn’t necessarily need a race on my calendar to have a reason for lacing up my training shoes every day.
After I ran the L.A. Marathon in March of 2012 I stepped away from targeted training for a while, taking a short amount of time completely off from running before resuming a regular, albeit unfocused schedule where I didn’t have any specific goal other than to get out the door for an hour a day — just 60 simple minutes to myself, or with others, where I ran as I felt with no regard to pace or distance covered. I just had fun with it. Well, that’s now been my M.O. for about the last year, not that it wasn’t fun when every workout previously had the ulterior motive of competition behind it. Most days I run for an hour, some days a little longer, others shorter, sometimes not at all, but that’s rarely by choice. I’ve run by myself and with hoards of others, gone to the track and done a workout on a whim, run over 90 minutes a few times, found myself in the middle of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants fartlek on more than one occasion, and even jumped in a couple races for shits and giggles. Racing really isn’t at the forefront of my mind these days, and for the first time in my life I’m A-OK with finding myself in this peculiar predicament. I’ve realized over time that I don’t necessarily need competition to motivate me to get out the door every day, though I still do like to line up and test myself from time-to-time.
So why do I, Mr. Competitive Runner from the day I first laced up a pair of running shoes, still try to get out the door as often as I can even if I don’t plan to race?
The short answer is that the simple act of running is just something I really just love to do. It doesn’t matter if I’m running at under 5 minutes a mile and holding on for dear life at the end of a tough track workout or trotting along at a pace that more closely resembles walking, charging up one of the challenging hills near my home in San Diego or floating along a flat stretch of road in the middle of some previously undiscovered place, running is a large part of who I am and what I do every day. It challenges me to look deep inside myself on a regular basis and helps me work through problems that nothing else can seem to help solve. It’s responsible for many of the opportunities I’ve been presented with in life — including my job here at Competitor — along with many of my closest friendships and relationships I’ve made over the years. It was through a local running group that I was first introduced to my wife, and it was shortly after I began running in high school that I met my best friend after a cross-country meet.
The reasons why I run have evolved over the years, but today, more than ever, lacing up my running shoes and getting out the door might be the only hour, or 30 minutes, or whatever amount of time I have that day, that I can get away from the busyness of everyday life, the incessant buzzing of my cell phone, dinging of my e-mail alerts — you name it — and have some time to myself or with those who are important to me.
So, tell me, why do YOU run?