I remember one of the first times I ran. My dad, a lifelong runner, would often go on runs around the neighborhood. I didn’t understand why. Running around in circles without holding onto a ball or a bat, or shooting into a goal or hoop seemed strange to my 7-year-old self.
I did know that I had alot of energy, had trouble ever falling asleep, and asked alot of questions. For all of these reasons, when I asked my parents “Can I please run with dad?” they didn’t object.
I think they preferred me doing something productive to hopefully get me to stop doing gymnastics in our living room, start sleeping, and prevent them from pretending that they knew exactly why the sky was blue.
The first time I laced up my running shoes, it was hard. Really, really hard. So hard that I vowed that the only way that I would do it again would be if it was part of another sport that made sense to me, like soccer or basketball. A sport where running led to a goal or basket, rather than a simple high-five or “Way to go!”
But, just a few days later, I did it again. Then, a few days after that, again. A few months later, I signed up for a race: A one-miler. It was not easy, and I was not fast.
What I was? A determined girl who loved a challenge. Each year, I ran that same race, trying to run it just a little faster.
I replaced running for quite a few years. Other than running that race—specifically, the Ridge Run—I played other sports instead. It wasn’t until my freshmen year in high school that I became a “runner” again.
I became a runner again because of the same reason: I was a determined girl who loved a challenge. My high school was small, and no one wanted to run distance. I didn’t, either. I believed a mile was “too far,” and wanted to long jump. [A side note: If you’ve ever seen me attempt to jump over a puddle, you know that me as a long jumper is laughable].
However, I couldn’t say no to my coach and agreed to do distance. It was still hard. But, again, I was still a determined girl who loved a challenge. Every race, I worked at decreasing my time. And, every race, I fell more in love. I loved that you could put in the work and get results. I loved that you were doing something that others found slightly crazy. Even more, I loved that incredible feeling when you crossed the finish line…especially when you received a personal record (PR).
I also loved that you burned enough calories to eat many cookies.
My love of running eventually lead me to run at Drake University and, later, complete the Chicago Marathon and run many other races. My 7-year-old self would have thought running 26.2 miles for fun was absolutely insane. The day after the race, I agreed.
In many ways, I am similar to my seven-year-old self. I still sometimes have an energy overload. Sleeping is still sometimes a struggle. I still love (asking) questions. Yet, in others, I’m different. I hardly ever question the reason why I run. As in the popular Nike saying, I “Just do it.”
But, today, I thought about the reason. I’m currently coaching High School Girl’s Cross-Country, and the girls had an incredibly tough workout (12 400s) in incredibly tough conditions (so windy and rainy you could hardly see). Many of them were struggling.
But, as soon as it was over, they were smiling.
I run exactly for that reason.
Are you a runner? Do you feel similar about another sport?