In high school our P.E. class would do the “milk run.” We didn’t get milk afterwards. It was around 3km and it often took me around 15 minutes. I had no idea if that pace was fast or slow. I was usually the third person out of my class to finish. I noticed my legs started to feel stronger and my body felt happier as the runs accumulated.
After many milk runs I decided to sign up for the 1500m race in an intra-city track meet. There was no qualifying time to compete. I made it about 600m, got a huge stitch, and almost puked. I didn’t finish. I stopped running.
Twenty years later after my first child was born I wanted to lose weight and battle my “post-parting” depression. When my baby was 6 months I joined a Learn-to-Run clinic. Determined and diligent, I got up early most mornings to do two laps of the lake. When I was in motion, my life felt in balance.
The clinic culminated in a Run for the Cure (breast cancer awareness) 5km run. It was a new experience: it was exciting, there were lots of people, and I was running 5km! Near the 3.5 km mark I was both elated and exhausted. I heard a strange rhythmic sound behind me. Tip, tap, tip, tap got closer and turned into flip, flop, flip, flop. I was passed by a very tall and skinny kid in flip-flops.
I continued to run. I took clinics, joined run groups, and wrote down every detail of my run. I tracked weather, my moods, my distances, my paces, and how much mileage I had on a pair of shoes.
I ran my first 10km race with almost 10,000 other people and had my personal best time that stood for almost 5 years. I ran my first half marathon where at 19km I thought I’d stop to cry from both elation and fear at the same time. My goal time was 1:55 and I finished just over 1:50.
Running is a part of me. I put my shoes on and can leave from my front door. It takes no time to put space between my day and the ground beneath my feet.
Running is about solitude. It is about companionship. It is about meeting your own goals, your own fears, and your own joys. There is no finish line, there is a journey that you choose. The road is always there.
I ran my first marathon last year. It was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day in October. I ran with 8 great people. I finished with the support of my fellow runners, my family, and my training. I didn’t run for a finish line; I knew it would be end after 42.2 km and the last 10 km were excruciating (as promised). But I ran for my own sense of completion. I ran to prove to myself that I could run for my joy and away from depression. I ran to celebrate my long training runs, countless hill repeats, and track workouts.
I ran because I could, because I may not always be able to.
Health is not a given, or to be taken for granted. I don’t want to run every time I go out. Not every run is my best run, or even a good run. But every run is good for me. Every run makes me feel better. I appreciate myself more after a run: I am kinder. Every run is healthy.
And I am a runner.