When asked why he started running across the country, the fictional Forest Gump answered, "I just started running." If you didn't use your Forest Gump voice when you read that, go back and try it again.
I enjoy running. I could sprint fast as a kid and I liked outrunning other kids in races around the yard. In organized football, running fast was pretty much my only talent. I wasn't interested in running as a sport in school but in college I ran for fun and exercise sporadically. Stan and I got a little more serious about it during our last two years of undergrad, running regularly on a 5 mile course trying to get 20 miles in each week.
After college I would run every now and then when I'd decide I was eating too much bad stuff. Running made me feel better. I began to see it as a stress reliever as well as good exercise and I found a really nice course at our old house and started running more regularly there.
Eventually I got the nerve up to register for a 5K. This was my first encounter with "real runners". These people had running clothes. You know, clothes that were designed and sold for the purpose of running. They had fancy shoes and matching outfits and because it was a very cold December morning, most of them had those tight running pants. I was not one of those people. I had on a pair of exercise shorts, a tshirt and some old shoes. I liked running but I always maintained that I was not a "runner". What that meant to me was I didn't have fancy running shoes or clothes. I did not subscribe to any running magazines. And I certainly did not eat or drink anything specifically designed to enhance my running. Running was fun and when you run fairly regularly it's easy to explain why you run. It's exercise. It's fun. I enjoy it.
A few years ago we moved to the Middle of Nowhere with several acres of land. Just after we moved in I realized that I could run around the perimeter of our property and have a pretty awesome running track. 3 1/2 years later, I'm still running that track on a daily basis. Sort of accidentally, I started logging at least 3.1 miles every day. When it's cold, I run. When it's hot, I run. When it's raining, snowing, sleeting, thundering, I run. When life makes it difficult to make time for my miles, I still run. When we travel, I run somewhere else but I still run. I haven't skipped a day of running in 3 1/2 years. And when you start doing something like that, something that seems odd to everyone else around you, you start having to answer the question of why. The answers have more or less been the same. I enjoy running. It's great exercise. But even I can admit that there must be more to it than that to run every single day.
I've logged 5,239 miles on my Nike Plus app for however many years I've used that. This year alone I ran 1,144.5 miles. I got to run in St. Augustine, Highlands, the Grand Strand and of course, here at home. I ran in total darkness, raging heat and 18 degrees with snow on the ground. I saw sharks, dolphins, crabs, deer, rabbits, cats, dogs, hawks, crows and something that may have been a bear on these runs. I saw shooting stars, amazing sunrises and unexplained flashes in the predawn sky. When I run I pray and I think and I plan. And while it's never easy, I really enjoy it all.
Sometimes I forget why I run. I mean the real reason. Sometimes I open the door and the cold air hits me and takes my breath away. Some days I can hear the rain on the roof before I even go outside. Some days the humidity is so stifling I can barely breathe. Some days my legs are sore or my knees hurt. On days like these I confess to murmuring a little. I may even complain. And then I remember why I run and feel terrible for complaining.
I run because I can. I run because I am physically able to run. It is true joy to feel the wind against my face as I push forward. I lift my feet off the ground to move forward and as I glide through the air I feel alive. I run as a way of giving thanks for the ability to run and for the opportunity to run. These are gifts and I am truly grateful.
I have friends who are physically unable to run. Their ankles, knees or bodies have failed them and they can not run. I am certain they'd give anything to feel that wind on their face even in driving rain or boiling heat. A couple of years ago I had the honor of pushing a wheelchair bound student in a race at school. I saw the smile on her face when we passed people. I'm a total idiot for complaining about running in a little rain.
Currently I have at least 6 pairs of running shoes. (It can take a couple of days for a pair to dry out after a rainy day run.) I still have some basic exercise shorts I wear but I also have a couple that were sold as "running shorts". I even have some of those tight running pants and long sleeve running shirts just because exposed skin when the wind chill is in the teens is not such a good idea. I'm still fighting it, but I'm closer to accepting that I'm a "runner" now. At least now I know why.