As a runner, I’m always faced with one question;
“Why do you run?”
It’s a simple question, one that deserves an answer. When I sit here and think about it, why wouldn’t someone want to know what it is that makes me get up at the crack of dawn, drive to a trail, and proceed to exert three-times my body weight onto my feet every second, and continue this pounding, repetitive motion over and over for 60-90 minutes, only to finish slightly short of breath, tired, sore, and often rather sweaty? Or how is it that I actually enjoy running up in the mountains, thin air making my lungs gasp and scream, or running through a storm, watching the sky open up, sheets of rain pouring down on my skin, as my feet slip and slide and somehow gain eyes of their own to find the flooded trail? When I think about it, from an outsider’s point of view, running really seems quite crazy.
I fell in love with running from the first step. Seven years a runner now, I can undoubtedly say there’s never been a day I didn’t love running. Sure there were days I hated the pain, but like any love-relationship, my passion for the sport has never been dampened by one bad experience. Through injury, pain, bad races, and disappointing workouts, my love for running has never died out. Part of this is because to me, running has never really been just a sport. Although I originally started running because I wanted badly to be considered an “athlete” (what seemed to be the coolest thing in middle school), I realized quickly running is so much more than a sport; it’s a lifestyle. It’s more than winning or losing, more than training and competition, and far more than a physical action.
Since I first started running in seventh grade, running has transformed from hobby to lifestyle, to my life and ultimately my obsession. For many years now, I’ve considered running my life, and not just a part of my life, but all of my life. I’ve spent hours every day thinking, dreaming and basing every decision I’ve made upon how it could affect my running. With hopes and dreams of making it “big,” I decided long ago to dedicate my life to running, knowing there’d be tough times and sacrifices along the way. I decided that it’d be worth it, that in the end, its up to me to make my goals and dreams come true. When I set out to do something, I always have the sort of “all or nothing” approach. Since I love running, even outside of competition, what a better way to dedicate my life than to strive to reach the highest level, knowing that even if I never make it, I’ll at least enjoy the journey along the way. I truly do just love running for the sake of running. I love the feeling of endorphins that you get on a 12 mile run, I love the feel of my feet pounding on the crushed gravel trails, watching the seasons come and go, waking up, lacing up my shoes, rain, sleet, snow or sun, I’ve always got my run.
Dedicating my life to running was easy for me. It’s easy, after all, to dedicate all your time and effort to something you love. But one day I started thinking. I started questioning where my life was going. Was dedicating my life to running truly the way to go? People will argue that running won’t last forever. You can get hurt, burn out, and if not you still need to plan for the career you’ll have one day, a career outside of running that is. I always argued this with the thought that I’ll never quit running. I’ve always planned on running post collegiately, whether I’m an Olympian or just running road races for fun. I’ll admit I could see myself ending up running through old age, ending up as one of those wrinkly old women you see at local road races, dominating all of the records in their 70+ age group. But regardless of whether or not I’m blessed with such great health, the fact is, all running careers eventually come to an end. And the question is, what will I take away from all of this, and is this what I’m meant to be doing with my whole life?
Lately I’ve started asking myself things like, what’s the worth of running for my life? There are obvious answers, it something I love, something that keeps me fit, it allows me to unleash my competitive nature and also have time to myself. It bothered me, however, that when I thought about the meaning of life as a whole, I couldn’t seem to find where running fit in. All my life I’d been taught and strived to live with a list of priorities. If someone asked me to rank my priorities in life I’d say, “First comes God, then my family and friends, then school, and finally running.” However, my current priorities at the time were far from this list. It was obvious when I stood and stared at myself in a mirror, I wasn’t living the life I’d set out to live. In reality, running was first and everything else fit into the little nooks and crannies of my life that weren’t already filled with running-related things. My life was running, running, and…running.
Sure, I went to church every week that I could, and opened my bible for about a minute each night. I went to class, I always got all A’s and one stinking A– every time. I took care of myself with my 8 or 9 hours of sleep, and healthy eating. I talked to my family when I had time, time that is outside class, running, weights, cold tubs, dinner, doing laundry, and sleeping. Time, in fact, was the only problem I saw with my life. I knew if I didn’t run I’d have time to for reading my Bible, time to get straight As, time to call my parents and sisters more often. Time. What a silly excuse. Time.
The fall of my sophomore year of college it hit me. Ending my cross-country season with “the worst race of my life,” and watching our team fall short of winning it all was more than I thought I could handle. Suddenly all the time I’d spent focusing on this one race seemed wasted. I managed to hold my composure for the awards and plane ride home, but soon after entering my apartment I broke down. How could this happen to me? How could I cramp up in the one race that mattered, the race I’d focused all of my training around. Running, such a time-focused sport, had taught me that typically if you trained hard and smart, and had the right timing, you’d find success. However, on this cold November night when most other runners in the NCAA were out partying for the fact that their season was over, I on the other hand found myself exhausted, confused and miserably kneeling on the floor in prayer. I asked God why this happened to me, not in an angry, accusing way, but in a way that he would let my eyes see clearly his plan. I’ve always been a big believer that God has all the plans. Not just a general plan, but a plan for ever thought we think, thing we see, or second we spend doing whatever we do. It was that night, I believe, that God had planned to reveal to me one very important fact. Life isn’t about running for a win, it’s about running for him… (to be continued)