Why I Run

First: Today is 11/1/11. I love that. I’m really excited to make a wish at 11:11 am. Also, Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit! Say it and you’ve got good luck for the entire month.

No, I’m not superstitious, but thank you for asking.

Now let’s talk about running.

I remember going in for my Run For The Rabbit screen test so vividly (yes, it was the day I met Brian for the first time, but I remember other stuff from that day, too). I had been told that out of 350 applicants, I was one of 50 or so finalists being brought in to talk on camera about my running history and the charity I wanted to raise money for.

I do remember not knowing if I wanted them to call me Ali or Alison. Major decisions, you know?

I rambled on for a really long time to the director and the PR girl. They threw questions at me and, in true Ali fashion, I never once thought before I spoke. That’s simply not my style.

As I talked about the half marathons I had run, I got more excited about the possibility of running a full marathon. It was then that I realized that running had become a huge part of my life. I didn’t identify myself as a dancer anymore — that ship has sailed oh so far away — but I also didn’t want to just identify myself by my day job. I wanted more “titles,” and as Run For The Rabbit kicked off, I decided that “runner” was a title I should eventually get used to. Fastest runner? No. Best distance runner? Surely you’re joking. But runner? OK. I can get used to that.

The moment I remember most from the screen test was the final question the director asked: “Why do you run?”

Again, without thinking: “I run to stay sane.”

Sane? Sure. That's the goal.

For me, running has never been about speed or distance. I mean yeah, of course while I was training for the marathon, there were days when a particular run was exactly about hitting a certain speed or mileage marker. And now that I’m training for the Las Vegas Half Marathon, I’m again focusing on specific training goals.

But overall, I run because that’s my Ali time. And I value the heck out of Ali time.

Happy Ali running. And trying to smile...for the cameras...which is not comfortable or normal.

I don’t always run alone. Today I ran 7.5 miles with Kelly and Brian, and I loved the company. Kelly is running the New York City Marathon on Sunday, so we ran through the finish line area where all the bleachers are set up. I was ridiculously giddy for her and all the other runners who will cross the finish line on Sunday (giddy = jealous, but you get it).

People have asked me before why I work out twice a day sometimes — running in the morning, gym at night. It’s not about weight loss and it’s not about exercise addiction (though thank you, coworker who left that article on my desk that one time inquiring about my “symptoms”).

I run in the morning so that I can wake up and not go right to work. I adore my job, but I don’t want sitting at a desk to be the first thing I do every day. So I run. I’ll sometimes go to the gym at night for a group class, like Chisel or Spinning, because I like the group mentality and sometimes it’s nice to park yourself on a bike and let a teacher tell you what to do.

In the morning though, I see familiar faces in Central Park, I break a killer sweat and sometimes I wear leg warmers for the occasion.

Good morning!

When I run I think about nothing. Other times I think about everything. Sometimes I’m cranky when I start running, but I very rarely finish a run in a bad mood.

Today my stomach gave me Hell. Again. I took a while getting out the door in the first place, and then I had to stop twice during the run. It was frustrating, especially when my energy felt so depleted that I almost asked Kelly to give me a piggy back ride up Cat Hill. (I wasn’t sure whether piggy back rides were advised during taper, so I didn’t ask.)

But then, more than 7 miles later, I was home and happy.

This shot was so fake. I have never stretched up against a tree like that. But apparently it was good for the video, and I am good at following directions.

While I ran, I didn’t think about my To Do lists (yes, plural, fantastic) and I didn’t worry about the fact that the ceiling in my bathroom has a persistent leak that my super doesn’t seem eager to fix. I definitely didn’t care that an hour had gone by without checking my email.

So that’s why I run. Running keeps me sane. It keeps me calm. It gives me time away from people — or with people — to be doing exactly what I want. It’s time outside, in the park, in my ultimate happy place.

And to think, when I was in college and someone suggested running, I said “No thanks” because it seemed “boring.”

I’D LOVE TO KNOW: Why do you run?



0 Responses

  1. When I came back to running earlier this year, I thought it was to help manage my weight. I’ve since discovered I run because it gives me an outlet for the ridiculous amount of energy I would put into micromanaging (aka stressing out about) everything else I have to do in life. In short, you took the words out of my mouth…it keeps me sane. Plus there is this side of me that absolutely loves to compete with myself… Just sayin’

  2. I so wish I can get up and running in the morning. Well, I guess I could get up but I am not sure about the neighbourhood. Plus, I live in CANADA, it’s already like -5°C over night. Not sure if that is so much fun and running on the treadmill is not really cool either.

  3. The picture with you stretching on the tree.. I did not see the tree and I thought you were getting ready to do a cart-wheel, and i was like “what is she talking about leaning against a tree stretching…oh wait theres the tree!!”

    I love to run because I love the way I feel inside and out.. cheesy.. totally! Do I care? Nope!

  4. Jan cannot get over the fact that your stomach still hurts.

    I run for my sanity (which I am now losing not running), structure in my busy life, and sense of accomplishment. Plus, who doesn’t like catching up at a sweat squad session?!?

  5. This is a really great post.

    I run because I am not running for or against anyone else. No one else’s actions can dictate my speed or mileage. I like that its a challenge against myself.

  6. I love everything you said! I decided to get serious about running and train for a half marathon in the middle of the craziest busiest time I have had in a long time–12 hour days, almost 2 months with no day off, and because I’m crazy, I decided to add running on top of that. Then I realized, that with all the work and people pleasing that keeps me busy the rest of my day, this is the one thing I get to do for me. And it’s something no one can argue with and it’s something with an end goal that keeps me from talking myself out of my “me time” like I tend to with things like, you know pedicures or shaving my legs haha. Also, your marathon recap totally inspired me as do all of your running posts!

  7. I run because it forces me to challenge myself to do things I haven’t been able to do. I run because it helps lead to health, both physical and mental, and I know I’m making a healthy choice for my future.

    I love the photo of you stretching on a tree! Awesome…

  8. I love the faux tree stretching photo, hehe. I run because I live for routine and there’s nothing better than starting the day off with some miles (bonus if the miles are with a sweat squad member!). I also run because it clears the cobwebs from my head and makes my heart happy 🙂 And I don’t even care if that sounds lame, huzzah.

  9. I’ve never seen the “rabbit rabbit” thing before, yet today I’ve seen it in 2 different places–so I looked it up! How have I never heard of this before?!

    I’m with you on running to stay sane (well, I apply that to exercise in general, actually). But I like running SO much more than other cardio (like the elliptical or stairclimber). I think what I love most is that it feels so natural…and it IS natural, after all. I also love to run because I know how tough it is, and every time I do it, it reminds me how tough I am.

  10. I started running because it was the fastest way to lose weight, and at the time, I had about 45 lbs to go. Then, as I got better at it (I use the term “better” quite loosely), I started to enjoy running for running’s sake. I liked the time to myself, with my music (or no music if I’m feeling really reflective). I’ve had some of my best ideas/solutions to problems/pep talks with myself on my runs. Have I had shitty ones too? Heck yes. But running overwhelmingly has led me to be not just a healthier person, but a calmer one, too.

  11. Haha oh man, I agree.. and back growing up, I was SO anti running. I thought it was impossible, that I just wasn’t cut out for it. Circle back to college jr year and suddenly I felt like I’d found something that was made just for me, that I was destined to do. Running has been my sanity and sense of personal accomplishment outside of the classroom, and even an identity for oh so long, which I’m still sort of struggling w now that injuries have forced me to dramatically decrease my running.

  12. Running to me, is: My therapist. My yogi. My anxiolytic. It is the friend that will never walk away; the pat on the back that my parents never gave. Running to me, is a multifaceted entity without judgement nor complaint; one that continues without fail to hold me accountable, and with each and every practice, makes me a better me – a centred me. This is why I run.


  13. I love this post! running is so many things to me. But I think when it comes down to it- all of the reasons can link to “me time.” Running is when I do my thinking or my clear my head out and not think of anything.

    I like to wake up early and do something other then stare at my computer at my desk too! It keeps me sane.

  14. I run because I can. I never thought when I was an overweight child/teenager/adult that I could run. After I lost the weight I still didn’t think I could run. Now – I still feel a slight shock before every run that I am actually doing this.

    The really fun part about long runs is that I get so lost in them I forget what time or even day it is. I had a long run before work one day and I totally got so into it that only at the 3/4 mark did I remember that I actually had to go to work afterwards! Someday I’m just going to totally forget.

    I am doing some double sessions as well – running in the morning/class at night. I just love the dance classes at my gym, and I know that getting my run on is also important. I’m seeing a bad side effect though – I think I am losing my appetite. Having a hard time eating enough. Will have to work on that.

  15. i really enjoyed reading this post! i run because i love the feeling accomplishment i feel after. i love knowing that every step i take during a training run will ultimately help me run stronger and faster during my next race.
    btw, where do you get your leg warmers? i really want to get a pair!

  16. Great post! I run for a lot of the same reasons. To stay sane and centred and to feel good. I have been majorly slacking on the morning runs lately since the darkness of fall/winter has set in and I need to get back into it because it sets such a good tone for the rest of my day!

  17. When I registered for the Nike women’s half earlier this year, I had to fill in the blank in the statement “I run to be ____.” I picked “awake” — and that’s true. I like that I can wake up by doing something useful and productive and good *for me* just because I want to. But the better answer is the one I ended up putting on my RoadID: I run to see the world. I love to be outside in a new city or on a new path, observing life and being a part of it. In some ways I don’t feel like I’ve seen a place until I’ve run in it!

  18. Hey Ali! I am so excited to have found your blog!

    I run for two reasons:
    1. Having Crohns/UC means that I sometimes feel like parts of my body are just, well, crappy. Every time I run, however, I’m reminded of all the parts of me that are strong and awesome (aka, EVERYTHING but my gut!). It’s a great way to be thankful for a few minutes on a daily basis.
    2. I get MAD runners high. Seriously.

  19. Beautiful post! I run because it makes me feel strong, happy, and alive. I run because, like you, I value my time alone and running is a perfect opportunity to take some “me time.” I run to stay healthy, and I run to stay happy.

  20. thank you for being a fabulous running buddy this morning, per usual. Also, I would have totally carried you up Cat hill in exchange for you carrying me along First Ave on Sunday if needed. 🙂

    I run for much-needed Kelly time too. I spend a lot of time alone, but my running time is different. It’s exciting, my mind can clear itself and I’m doing what I love. But that said, I love running with other people too! it’s such a great way to get to know someone that you obviously have at least one great thing in common with!

  21. I run because it’s who I am: a runner. I run because it’s freeing and cleansing and hard ass work. I run because it makes me happy.

    …and now I officially need leg warmers to run in. Way too cute.

  22. I could have written this myself. AMEN Ali AMEN!!

    As a law student sane moments are few and far between but, when I am running or spinning or lifting I feel clear and sometimes like super women. Thats what I need everyday.

    Right now I am tapering for NY on Sunday, world look out. Luckily I have 26.2 miles to regain my sanity that I lost this week.

  23. I also run for my “Ali time”. I refuse to ever run with my cell phone, so that I can be completely disconnected from the world for a few miles at a time. Another reason I run is for my “friend time”. I love my running friends so much and miss them a ton when I dont get to see them on our daily runs.

  24. Agreed. Once my life got so busy with work that I stopped working out and I was a freaking mess because of it! Now I realize that if I’m taking a break from exercise it’s only because I want to and never because my life is so busy.

  25. I run because I can.

    Not so long ago, I smoked, I drank, I was fat and soooo not into exercise, at least not running – it was just too hard. So now that I don’t do any of those things anymore, I’m a runner and I continue to run for the simple pleasure of knowing that I can.

  26. Awesome post! I love your honesty.
    Ok I am not a runner but I am mover/exercise fanatic and I do it because it keeps me sane. Sweating is bliss. I can feel the happy hormones running through my body. I feel sane and good about myself and where I am.

  27. I really love this post. I think a lot of runners run to stay sane, but they just don’t realize it. This post made me realize that a big part of why I run is to stay sane, too. Running has made me feel confident and strong, even though my body truly has not changed that much, it has improved my body image immensely. That’s how it has made me sane.
    I also run for competition. I’ve always been an athlete, but as an adult I can no longer call myself a volleyball player because I don’t have a team. I can’t call myself a diver anymore, because quite frankly I’m too afraid to even attempt one flip anymore, let alone two. Let’s not even talk about the twisting! Lol! So I run to stay an athlete.

  28. I run because every run is a challenge- whether its speed, distance, weather… but usually the challenge is getting my lazy bum off the couch or out of bed. But if I’m really honest with myself, I run because it keeps me healthy and skinny. I HATE machines at the gym. HATE! Running, especially along the lake in Chicago, is a much more enjoyable (and effective) way to stay fit!

  29. I feel the same way you do about not being able to call myself a swimmer anymore 🙁 Even though, hopefully when my husband and I start to do triathlons (since we have this goal of someday doing an ironman we should probably start doing sprint tris sometime) next summer, I hope I can start to identify with my swimmer-self a little bit more.

    This weekend was the first time I called myself a runner. It felt a little weird. The situation sucked (I was calling into urgent care to get an appointment to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture, which I thankfully didn’t have) but for a moment I felt like I was lying and I shouldn’t be calling myself a runner. I guess I’m still having a hard time feeling like I am a runner and not just someone who runs.

    I run for a lot of the same reasons you do and I like the feeling of accomplishment it gives me.

  30. Ha when I was in college I would have died at the thought of going running for fun. Now I love it – it’s the only time that I have 100% dedicated to me. Sometimes I run with friends but mostly by myself, which is just the way I like it – whether it’s a great run or a horrible run I almost always come back with a clear head and a renewed sense that it’s going to be a good day, week, month, whatever. I run because I love the way it makes me feel!

  31. It would never occur to me that working out twice a day was maladaptive (ala’ your co-worker’s note), that’s just what we do! So many people struggle to find forms of exercise that they honestly and simply enjoy, I feel like it’s a gift that I love to workout in general.

    I have no idea why I run (or at least not a reason that anyone else would find satisfying) I just do, cause I like it.

  32. I love that you run in the morning so that work isn’t the first thing you do in the morning.

    I run because I like it. Pure and simple. I like the way it makes me feel.

  33. Running keeps me sane too. I feel balanced after I run. I LOVE a good sweat (clearly, don’t we all!), and I love how much bang for the buck running is…you can run for 30 mins, hour, two hours, whatever, and feel freaking awesome no matter what (even if it was a bad run!).

  34. I started running because I wanted a goal, a challenge, and to prove to myself that I could. (And because I’m competitive and my own worst critic- apparently when your best friend trains for a half marathon it means time to get off your tush and attempt a 5k…)Now I run because I can and also to relieve stress. I still use it to push myself, too, but thankfully the goals have evolved as I’ve grown stronger…

  35. Dont worry about that photo being fake, it gives you a killer ass. LOL. Good for you, do what you love, and if running is it, JUST DO IT! < Like that?!

  36. I run to keep me sane, to give me goals that will motivate me to drag myself out of bed in the morning, because I love bagels, because racing is addicting…and, honestly, I really, really love the clothes. Jealous of your leg warmers…where do you find them?

  37. Great post! I also once had a friend send me an article about being “addicted” to exercise because he knew I was running a lot, often twice a day. At first, I was offended, but after thinking about it more I just realized he didn’t get it and that it was okay. I’m so grateful to have found something that means so much to me and, like you, keeps me sane. If I look crazy to others so be it!

  38. Before I read the caption on your “stretching on a tree” photo I thought it was a photo of you about to do a cartwheel. I won’t lie that I was a little disappointed. 🙂

  39. I’m running NYC on sunday too (teehee) and I’ve been asking myself that same question a lot lately. It’s for a lot of the reasons you said above—my sanity. And I truly believe I am a much better, more confident person because of my running.

  40. I couldn’t agree more with this entire post. I am always so much happier after a run. I have been job hunting and worrying about money over the last couple months (everything is finally coming to a wonderful end in that regard!) but running has kept me sane. I have been tense and, I think, the only thing that kept my brain from exploding was running which allowed me to release all of the stress.

    Awesome post! Thanks for summing it all up. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to say it myself on my blog but I haven’t been able to think of a way to keep it longer than “Running, I’d be crazy without it”

  41. First of all, I love your video! And the reason I run? Because I love the feeling after I’m done. I feel so strong and powerful, like I can do anything I set my mind to. I started running because my sister was trying to run to lose wait and stay in shape. I’d always been skinny and I hated the feeling of being out of breath when I tried to run. But it was either run or sit in the car while she did, so at 18, I started to run, and I hated it. Four years later, several 5ks, 2 10ks, and 1 half marathon later, I look forward to running every day!

  42. I love this! I first started running as a way to exercise when it is nice outside. . . but it is obviously turned into much more than that. I’d have to say now that I really love racing, and I run to race!

  43. there are a few reasons I run…..if I reallly have to go to the bathroom, if I’m playing sports, when I get off the train at night so I don’t have to sit in traffic in the parking lot, or growing up running was a punishment in sports practices……..also sometimes, I have running nightmares – not cool.

  44. you took the words right out of my mouth (head). i don’t want sitting at a desk to be the first thing i do every.single.day. thank youuu for saying that!

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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