I hit the sidewalk and start pumping my arms and legs. It’s so cold that my hands might crack along the knuckle valleys like they’re Kit Kats. They turn ashy and hateful, but I ignore them. I’m running. Isn’t it glorious?
Skrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt! Did you just say no?
It turns out that running is just one of those things – like eating spicy food or enjoying Curb Your Enthusiasm – that is so enjoyable, important, and natural to some people and so foreign and repulsive to others.
It must be hundreds of times that I’ve been asked the question:
- How do you stay motivated?
- Don’t you get bored?
- Isn’t that tedious?
- What do you think about that whole time?
- Ugh, how do you run so much?
But I guess I should answer your question with a question:
- How do you not?!
I put thousands of miles on my feet each year because I love running. It’s that simple. In fact, I can’t imagine not running. I’m not sure I’ve ever, in my sure-footed life, gone more than five days straight without running. I just run.
Through sprained ankles, tendinitis, and broken toes. Through the coldest days of winter and the hottest days of summer. Through 16 inches of snow for 16 miles. Through pelting rain that makes my pin straight hair impossibly nappy. Through DC, Maryland, and Virginia in the same day. Through hitting the wall at that forsaken mile 25. Through the finish line.
I’ve seen the sun come up and the sun go down over the Capitol and the Washington Monument and the Tidal Basin. I’ve done twenty milers at 4am, before a work day. I put in work because there’s no luck in finishing. Just guts.
It occurs to me that running is no longer an activity for me. It has become a religion. Forgive me for proselytizing, but I want to tell you about the Church of Run and what I believe.
I believe that running loves everyone, unconditionally and that running can save your soul.
I believe in the grace and glory of running. I let my feet confess my sins to the pavement because each mile strips you of your defenses, forcing you to confront who you are in the deepest corners of your being. You make peace with these pieces of you. As each foot falls on the pavement, it releases you. Running forgives you and allows you to forgive yourself.
You don’t need a Hail Mary if you’ve already gone deep. If you don’t like yourself now, see how you feel after 15 miles.
I believe in the healing power of running. It has made me a better person. There is no doubt that running has saved me from myself and countless other awful things like laziness, cottage cheese ass, and punching holes through walls.
Running is a constant force in my life. It is the yin and the yang. It is the punishment and reward. The pleasure and pain. The power and finesse. The strategy and guts. The mind and body.
I run when I’ve had a hard day, the kind that just frustrates me until I believe that humanity will crumble in its hedonism (and let’s be honest, it will, just not today). I have to let it out. I have to get it out. Running is the reset button that forces me to breathe again. To relax my fists and arms. To keep my head steady and focus on what’s in front of me. Running allows me to move on.
I run when I’ve had an easy day. Too easy. Because you have to put in work. Running makes me mobilize so I don’t grow barnacles. Running makes sure I stay moving and hungry. Like very hungry. For cookies and trail mix and peanut butter.
Running is this constant force in my life that is there for me in my lowest lows and my highest highs. It gives me strength and solace. It’s the reason I wake up many mornings, and even more so, the reason I get out of bed.
Listen. I’m just trying to say the way school needs teachers, the way that Kathie Lee needed Regis, that’s the way I need… well, running. Someone write that down. That’s a great line.
I don’t run for leukemia or lymphoma. I don’t race for the cure or The Cure or cured meats. I don’t run for a cause. I run for an effect. I run for me.
Without running, I’m a lunatic. I’m nothing. I’m not even me without running.
It’s a long-winded response to an incredulous question. Why do I run? I run because I have to.