Yesterday, I had another long training run totaling 14 miles. I woke up at 4:30 AM, was in my car by 4:45 AM, and pounding the pavement with a friend by 5:15 AM for our first 4 miles. Then, we met up with a group of running friends for the next 10 to hit our 14 for the day. By 7:40 AM or so, we were done and it felt amazing knowing what we had all just accomplished together. It got me thinking how phenomenal running really is. So, while I thought about a lot of other things yesterday, amongst the chaos that I call life right now, I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on what running really means to me.
Here’s what I came up with.
There are no boundaries when it comes to running. You can literally run anywhere and everywhere. People are running all over the world as I write this. You can run on your treadmill or a track. You can run on the streets outside your doorstep or pound the pavement on your next vacation or business trip. You can run barefoot on the beach and feel your toes dig into the sand. You can run in your own town or keep running into the next state. You can run in place or you can run across the country! People even run in the pool! Literally, there are no boundaries. There is something so attractive about this to me. Knowing that wherever I am, I can always run.
Running knows no limits. You can run for as short or as long as your legs will carry you. You can run as fast or as slow as you please. You set your own limits and you too defy those limits. Nobody is going to tell you that you can’t run further or that you should run longer. Nobody is going to tell you to slow down or tell you that you’re going too slow. Hold on…I take that back. People WILL tell you these things. Ignore them. Do it YOUR way. No limits.
Running is a competition…with yourself. There will always be someone faster, better, stronger, more experienced, but none of that matters. As I continue to run, I have come to learn that running is all about being the best that I can be or being the best that YOU can be. Running makes you dig deep inside to find the determination to keep putting one foot in front of the other whether it be for a quarter mile, 5 miles, 26.2 miles, or more. It’s your heart and your persistence that keep pushing you forward. Stop worrying about what pace the other guy is or how come the lady with the stroller just passed you. Focus on progress, beating your own record, doing better than the last time. Remember, YOU are your only competition.
Running does not discriminate. It does not care what your gender is, your race, your sexual orientation, your height, your weight, your religion, your income, your political view, your disability, or should I say ABILITY… The only thing running cares about is “heart”. As I continue running and becoming engrossed in the running community that surrounds me, I have seen, read about, and watched all kinds of runners. I’ve been passed by little kids and older runners. I’ve run next to individuals with prosthetic legs. I’ve run with people bigger than me and smaller than me. Individuals that are heavier than me and lighter than me. I’ve run with people of all races. I’m sure I’ve run with and cheered on people with differing religious and political views. None of that matters in the moment. Nobody cares. We are all runners. We want each other to triumph. We want to see each other succeed. We all have “heart”. When we run, we become one big team.
Running makes me feel free. Recently, Asics had a “shoe art” competition and I entered a photo spelling out the word “F-R-E-E”, because that’s what I think of when I think about running. I put on my sneakers, lace up the laces, tie them in a double knot, and just like that, nothing else matters. Dirty diapers are no more. Toddlers having tantrums don’t exist. Finances are not an issue. Disease, illness, stress, laundry, dishes, cleaning, cars that need fixing, roofs that are leaking, bills that need paying, all of it becomes a distant memory. I am free to sweat, burn, struggle, triumph, listen to the birds, be conscious of my breath, take in the scenery, smile, feel proud, think or take a mental break, run short or long, fast or slow, with nobody to stop me.
I find strength in running, especially this year. Yes, physically I feel stronger, but more importantly running helps me to find the strength I need to be the best Mom I know how to be. It helps me find the strength to set new goals that are sometimes scary, but that I know I will achieve, somehow, someway. It gives me the strength I have needed lately to stay positive for my Dad and to keep fighting for his health, even though there are times I want to break.
I used to run alone. Where’s the fun in that? I do enjoy a solo run here and there for some me time. I’ve learned though that running with a buddy or several buddies, like I did yesterday, takes things to another level in terms of motivation and fun. Friendships are formed that truly are unbreakable. You learn that in life there are times that you need someone to carry you and times that others need carrying. You are reminded how amazing it feels to be surrounded by so much positive energy and inspiration to keep working hard. When you run with others, the camaraderie is palpable and you know that you’re “in this together”.
I have so many awesome memories from running that I can’t possibly go through them all. There was that time at a local 5K where I creeped up on a friend from behind, passed him, and then we raced to the finish like our life depended on it, all in good fun. There was that time at Reach the Beach where we couldn’t get the paint off the vans after attempting to even scrape it off with credit cards! We thought for sure we were buying those vans! There was a time at the Applefest Half Marathon where my friend and I were delirious around mile 10 and made a ridiculous joke about a camouflage truck that passed us causing us to nearly pee our pants while laughing so hard. There was that time that I crossed the finish line at my first official marathon and cried tears of pain and joy all at once. These memories and so many more can never be taken away. They will last a lifetime.
Running knows no boundaries. Running knows no limits. Your only competition is yourself. Running does not discriminate. Running is freedom. Running is strength. Friendships are formed. Memories are made. Running is simply the best and I absolutely love it.
What does running mean to you?