WHY AM I A RUNNER?
Ever ask yourself a question that you just couldn't seem to answer? I have a good one……Why am I a runner? What is it about running that kicks my butt off the couch and sends my unwilling 52 year old body out into every adverse weather condition imaginable?
It seems that many runners I talk to were always active, they were in sports when younger and most have a long history of running. It makes sense that they will continue running as they age. It is in their blood, it seems they have no conscious choice. They would no sooner quit running as they would quit breathing.
Why me though? I did not participate in sports when in school. Oh, I wanted to but honestly I had no talent. It was more of a dream than anything I could really accomplish. It seemed that all the sports kids were so good, like they had been doing it all their lives. I did try out for Basketball one time but was cut in the first round. I wasn't even good enough to be a "bench sitter".
I remember hearing about cross country when my oldest son started soccer and thinking how stupid that was…….running 3 miles in the woods….for what reason? It didn't make any sense to me. I remember thinking, "what, they can't find a real sport to do?"
I should have understood because running was one thing I was actually pretty good at. I could catch all the kids on the playground I could beat anyone in my family and even when running around playing games with my friends, I always could beat them. I suppose if I realized that running was a sport, I might have tried it but I don't remember there being a track team when I was in school. I am sure there must have been, I guess I just never crossed paths with them.
So, I have no history, how did I start running? My oldest son decided to run track in high school and the younger ones started running too. It was a little hard on me at first because I coached Baseball with all of my kids (for eight fun years) and when they gave up that for track, I felt lost. How could they leave me hanging like this? I even thought about continuing coaching anyway. I rallied up though and like any good father I got involved. I supported the kids and went to every meet. I have more taped footage than a TV station.
I started to love the sport of running. It was so different than all the others. No one "sat on the bench" every one could participate. It was the only sport that held a spot for every level of ability. The coach's son didn't get the best position, kids earned that recognition through their own sweat, desire and effort.
I gained a huge respect for the athletes and enjoyed watching the kids excel throughout the season.
Even with the awesome State Championship wins and the excitement of the track team, It still did not dawn on me to start running. Then one snowy day in February of 2000, my son asked me to run the Clam Festival 5 miler with him and his brothers. Without a hint of any thought or reason, my mouth shot out a loud yes, as if I was fully trained and was just waiting for the opportunity to strut my stuff.
Problem is, I had no stuff. I hadn't even run a mile never mind 5 miles. I put myself in quite a spot this time. I can't back out on my word but at the same time, I don't want to embarrass my kids (and myself) by not finishing. It became my task to make sure I finished that race. In March of 2001 while on vacation with my wife, I ran three miles….OK, I slowly jogged three miles.
Even at a (very) slow jog, I experienced all the reason's not to ever run again. My breath was heavy and labored, my lungs hurt, my quads burned, sweat was pouring into my eyes causing them to burn, I felt so slow. My brain screamed for me to stop this nonsense. What am I doing? I am 46 years old not a teenager. I kept telling myself I shouldn't be doing this, I am too old, and too out of shape. I began to think of all the excuses I could use when explaining my failure to the kids.
Suddenly, I was back at the hotel. Wow! I made it. Emotion was bubbling to the surface. I felt great, it was an amazing feeling. Tired and sore but excited and full of energy all at the same time. I had this fantastic feeling of accomplishment. I looked around half expecting a rush of clapping and hurrahs from the crowd, but no one even seemed to notice me except for one couple walking by that actually had stunned looks on their faces as if the sight before them was surely some crazed idiot with a history of delusional behavior.
I get it now…..I understand…..I walked into the hotel with a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Surely a little more alive than one hour ago. I continued running and on May 6, 2001 I ran my first race. It was a 5k, The YMCA Race Against Racism in Portland. I didn't win or come in second. Actually I think it was more like 130th, but as I cheered for the next 100 people crossing the finish line, suddenly it hit me. Even though I did not run that fast, I was tired and sore, I was not last. I also realized that all these people are just running at their own level. In essence really only competing against themselves. that is when I realized I was a runner and I didn't need to be the best to master this sport, I only had to get out there and run……that's all.
So here is the strange part of life, I remember, as I stood in the shadow of those Baseball, soccer, football and other high school heroes, how I envied them.
They were in the lime light getting cheers from everyone. They were on top of the world. Where are most of those people now? What do they do to be involved and stay active when they get older? Well they run and bike…..they do triathlons, they run marathons and ultras……….they are the people running with me in these races. Some are in front of me and some are behind me. Ironically, we all ended up in the same place, running from point A to point B as fast as we are able.
As a parent, we lead by example and hopefully encourage our children to learn how to make smart and responsible decisions. They see what we do in life and strive to be like us…..it is human nature. Many kids through time have been heard saying, "Oh, I am doing this because that is what my dad or mom did." Sometimes…..just sometimes, the tables turn and we realize that we can learn from them, we can follow their lead and make some smart choices too.
Well, to answer my question, I am a runner because that is what my children did. They showed me the way to be involved with their interest and become much more healthy at the same time. They taught me something that surely has increased my quality and probably quantity of life. Sometimes, kids are so smart!