I thought by the time June 6 rolled around this year, I would have profound, witty thoughts to share on National Running Day.
Turns out, I really don’t.
I love that National Running Day exists because runners are an interesting breed. Whether you’re Shalane Flanagan (which I basically am), gunning for a marathon win at the London Olympics, or you’re working up to your first 5K — or even if you have no desire to toe a start line because you’d rather run than race — we all deserve a day in our honor, to celebrate this weird sport.
As I’ve shared in the past, I never thought I’d identify myself as a runner. It took me a long time to finally adopt that title, but eventually I realized that I own more pairs of Brooks than work-appropriate shoes and the thought of circling the Central Park Reservoir six times is more appealing to me than most anything else.
I will never be the fastest runner. I will probably never run an ultramarathon, and it’s likely I’m never going to stand on a podium, accepting an award for actually placing in a race.
That’s fine with me.
I run because I love it.
That’s my profound, deep, totally shocking news of the day.
I am a runner and I love it.
I wish I were faster, sure. I wish I understood all the science behind running and training for races. I wish I could run every day of the week and not have to worry about injury. I wish I could run weekly marathons and I wish more of my runs felt effortless and fewer of them felt like I was towing a small wagon behind me. Like in that Oregon Trail game. Kind of.
I wish I raced as hard as I trained, and I wish I could completely overcome the mental games that have plagued my racing efforts in the past.
I have my faults. Many of them, in fact.
I have cried over “failed” races. I have shed a tear or two over bad long runs. I have beat myself up, both physically and mentally, and I have spent hours waiting for my Garmin satellites to load and then, hours later, analyzing my splits on my computer screen.
I don’t do these things because I have to. I’m not trying win at anything and I’m not competing with anyone but myself.
Running is something that became part of my life a few years ago, and since then I’ve been hooked. When I start my day in Central Park, everything else just seems to fall into place.
In the past three years, I can only think of one time when I didn’t want to run, and it was because I was coming back from injury and illness and I was afraid. I was afraid of how difficult the run was going to be. And yes, that run was hard. But by the end, I felt awesome.
I always feel awesome after I run.
It doesn’t matter if I have to make 16 bathroom stops along the way, or if my pace is fast or slow. Getting out there is something I truly enjoy, and that’s the reason I do it.
Over the past few years, as I’ve logged tons of miles, I’ve met incredible people along the way. This morning, I convinced Kelly and Lindsay to join me to for a National Running Day celebration. They ran slowly with me (such good friends), and even though my stomach hurt and my legs were tired, there was no place I would have rather been than with them, circling the Bridle Path.
I’m changing as a runner — sometimes for the better, and sometimes, well, not so much. I always thought I was that girl who had to listen to music while she ran, and now I can’t remember the last time I wore my headphones on a run. I appreciate the sounds of Central Park, and music just seems too…loud.
I’m trying to learn to be more relaxed about my running. Sometimes I prefer to be on a strict plan, but sometimes I just want to go for a run. I don’t want a plan. I don’t want criticism for “doing it wrong.” I just want to do my thing, because that’s why I run in the first place.
I run for me.
I don’t belong to a team.
I’m not exactly a force on the race course.
I’m out there for myself, doing my best and, most of the time, smiling the whole way.
Some people don’t get it.
When I had to do a 20-miler during marathon training last year, I was told I “was working out too much.” When friends want to spectate the New York City Marathon with me every year, I have to explain that “I have a spreadsheet” and “I take this really seriously.”
I love my non-runner friends.
But I need my runner friends.
I’m so thankful for the people who have come into my life thanks to running, like my NYC Sweat Squad buddies, my wine-drinking-cheese-eating-OMG-so-fast friends Kristan, Nicole and Sofia, and especially Coach Cane and Nicole.
And all of you!
Thank you for coming here to read about my splits, my miles, my sweat and my craziness. You motivate me every day and you make me want to be stronger, smarter and better.
That’s all I have for today — some rambling thoughts about the thing I love. Some days running kicks my ass, but even when I want to hate it, there I am, putting on the short shorts the very next day. I can’t resist. I think it’s fun, even when it hurts, even when my splits are tragically slow and even when the weather sucks. Running, you have always been there for me. Love you lots.
Today, get out there for a run. (Unless you’re injured. Don’t run if you’re injured. Or sick. Or if you have a heart condition. Also then don’t go ride roller coasters either.)
And have fun with it.
WHAT DOES RUNNING MEAN TO YOU? Is it a way for you to stay in shape? A way to get alone time? A time to spend with friends?