“Why do you do this to yourself?”
I remember my mum asking me that exact question after I finished my first half iron distance triathlon. She wasn’t the first, nor will she be the last to ask me that question. Recently, someone posed the question again, and I decided to think long and hard on that.
The easy answer is easy. When you get down to the nitty gritty nothing rarely is ever easy.
I started running in 2006 with Team In Training after be inactive since high school’s required Phys Ed classes nearly 20 years before. Back then I started as a means to an end: to get into better shape, and have some accountability at the same time. Which I sorely needed; still do.
Over the next 12 years I’ve learned a lot, about myself, the community around me, the people who I thought were friends, and the ones who would become them. I learned that running is an oxymoron to itself — immenently simple and excrutiatingly difficult; affordable and sooo expensive; boring and profoundly wondrous. Running, and being active in general, has taken me around the exact same 4.4 mile (7km) loop near my home and to the mountains around Lake Tahoe and Boulder, CO. It has taken me from favorite local races that are on perpetual repeat to nine other states and Washington D.C., and inspired me to strive for a half marathon in all 50 States + DC; a further stretch would include all the US Territories as well. (I don’t see me getting to Guam any time soon though.) A closer-to-home, decidedly cheaper, and more attainable goal is to run or bike all the streets in my city, Grand Rapids, Michigan. I have no end date targeted; it’s just something to do.
I have learned I have tenacity I didn’t know existed, and proved a stubborness I knew was there. I have learned how to move beyond predominantly selfish motives to wanting to help other runners to achieve their own goals. I have found myself answering more questions about running than asking them. I’ve also found myself injured more than ever before. I am more grateful for when body parts don’t ache in a bad way.
Why do I do this to myself? Why am I willing to spend $145 on running shoes and yet hesitate to spend $25 on a clearance price top? Why am I willing to get up at half-past dark o’clock on weekends to wear eight pounds of layered clothes to face brutal Michigan winter weather? Good Lord, why? I’m not taking His name in vain — that’s a genuine plea.
I wish I had some deep, profound answer. But I don’t. All I can give is the same answer I gave my mum that day at the finish line.
I run because I can. I keep doing this to myself because my body lets me, and will keep it up until my body won’t let me. When I can’t run an more then I’ll go back to walking.