I’ve been doing it for over 20 years and still wonder why. I’ve lost toe nails because of it. The ones that remain sometimes turn black. People make lewd or stupid comments while I do it. I’ve never made money at it or won a first-place prize. I’ve wet myself – and am not consoled by the knowledge that elite professionals wet and soil themselves (eww) while doing it.
I’m talking about running, and asked myself yesterday “Why am I doing this?”
It should have been a great run: the midday sun and 40° temperature melted the snow and ice that had trapped me on the treadmill for weeks. I was over a nasty cold. I stepped outside in new running gear and sunglasses, and thought, “Yeah, here I go.”
Well, I didn’t get far before I wondered if I’d survive the damn run. Over two decades, I’ve run tens of thousands of miles, and completed seven marathons. I know running can feel great. It can feel like I’m flying beyond the reach of anything that weighs me down. I feel strong and invincible.
Not yesterday. I was on a routine out-and-back route that I usually spice up with a few hills. I avoided the hills yesterday because the flat stretches had me out of breath. I actually had to take a walking break.
I felt like a loser. I was feeling those weeks of pre-, during, and post-holiday indulging. I hadn’t challenged myself in a while. A runner runs, and I need to keep working at it every day, continually learning and refining, accepting my limitations and fluctuations. All those hours and miles logged over the years can’t be banked and drawn upon when needed.
I hated running when I first started all those years ago. I couldn’t make it to the corner of my block. It took almost two months (and lots of Tylenol and leg rubs with Icy Hot) to achieve my first non-stop mile. It took a few years to love running, but the whole time I learned that it takes hard work to be good.
I finished the run yesterday, and returned home humbled. I still wonder why I do it, but remember the critical point is that I have to do it. Like everything else – my writing, life, relationships – it takes work to get those high moments. I’m a loser only when I don’t try.