Why do you run? It’s a question from our bios here at Salty Running. As we begin a new year, this question has been coming back to haunt me.
On New Year’s day, I ran for 85 minutes on trails covered in snow, joined by a few friends. Afterward, I felt quite tired and still a little cold, but there was also a sense of completeness. My run was done for the day. My mind was a lot quieter than it was in the morning. Clearer, although still elusive, came the answer to that haunting question…
On the last day of 2012, I ran a 5k. There was that part of me longing to finally break 22 minutes. But prior to the start, I told myself that no matter what time I ran, there was going to be a lesson learned.
There always is.
I ran 23:25. A 5k that was run a few seconds off my most recent half marathon race pace.
After the first mile, I knew I was in for a slower time, but not that slow.
Slow for me. But not for the person running besides me who was being pushed by her friend. “Come on, you got this, just like our track workouts!”
Around mile two, I committed to running by feel. I was pushing myself but just enough for it to feel good, a rhythm of sorts.
Is this why I run?
My bio says I run to relax. The sound of quickened breaths, snot rockets, and feet striking was certainly relaxing.
The last mile featured a slow climb up a decent hill and then a long straightaway to the finish. My time was still a mystery. Part of me hoped that I was somehow magically running sub-7s. But as soon as an unexpected side stitch hit, I surrendered to the pain.
I slowed down.
I didn’t stop, though. And if I did, it wouldn’t be quitting if I walked. No, quitting would be pulling off to the side and pouting. A lack of forward motion.
I crossed the finish line in disgust, but a lesson needed to be learned, right? It’s only after defeat that we can take a step back and listen.
I immediately got into my car. Why cool down from a jog? I thought.
After a few deep breaths and a venting phone call with a friend, the lesson become more clear:
It doesn’t matter the pace. IT DOESN’T MATTER THE PACE!
That side stitch feels the same going 5:45 pace as it does 11:00 pace. That euphoria feels the same running a three-hour marathon as it does running a five-hour marathon. I run for the thrill of pushing through a side stitch, the thrill of finishing a race no matter what the time. Before the start of that 5k, I thought, “Why are these people so happy? Shouldn’t they be a little more serious?”
In 2013, I want to be happy.
I’ve made a resolution to rediscover why I run. In fact, I dug up this gem from my past after the race to jump-start my discovery. Located in a scrapbook I made at 17, I wrote:
“When my feet strike the ground, I am led into another world. My mind wanders off. Sometimes I reflect on the past. Other times I study homework. Sometimes I even let go of everything and free my mind. Because of running, I am a more confident person. I have made endless friendships. I have gained much wisdom. I have a new value for life and its challenges.”
Confidence and wisdom, at age 17? I miss that person and I want her back. Somewhere on the path I fell, and fell hard, getting too caught up in the idea that our PRs define us as runners. I apologize to any of you out there who have experienced my wrath of unwarranted speedism.
Yes, I do run to relax. But all those years spent on the ground, I wasn’t relaxed. Not one bit.
And yes, I still want to get faster. But that won’t happen without discovering the answer to this question:
Why do you run?