I Hate Running … (not really) … (but really)
For those who are planning a spring race (Pittsburgh Marathon on May 1 for me), January marks the official start of training. It is also a wonderful time for athletes of all abilities to set goals for the upcoming year and reflect on why we do what we do. Regarding running, I’ve never adequately answered that question for myself.
While training for the 2021 Chicago Marathon, one of my “long run” sessions included several loops around Humboldt Park on the city’s northwest side. As I ran, I encountered people enjoying the park. A pair of women who I saw multiple times that morning and I met up while waiting for a green light to cross the street. “You must really enjoy running”, one of them said, brightly. My response: “Absolutely not!” As the light changed, they laughed awkwardly at my joke, and I kept running. And thinking. I was no longer sure it was a joke.
Unlike many (most?) of the people who read Chicago Athlete, I am not a natural runner. My feet do not spring off the pavement only to seamlessly glide back into perfect position for the next stride. For me, running entails an incredible amount of effort- both physical and mental. My favorite part of “long” runs is planning the route while ensconced on my couch. “Speed” runs are, thankfully, relative to my own pace. Every run is at some “tempo.” Finally, I am positive that the phrase “recovery run” was invented by an exceedingly cruel, (and fast) person.
The current zeitgeist requires we humans to eliminate things that do not “spark joy” from our lives. Does running do that? For many reading this, and many of my friends, the answer is unequivocally, YES! One of my training buddies once said, and this is a direct quote: “Yay! We get to run 14 miles today!” I had to look up the word “get” to make sure it meant what I thought it did.
The physical act of running in itself does not bring me joy- although I have employed it to relieve stress on occasion. It is almost always a struggle just to lace up my shoes and go. Why, then, do I continue to do it? Why sign up and pay for expensive races, knowing how many hours and miles are going to be spent doing the one thing I claim to dislike so intensely? Why commit to knee, foot, and butt pain for months at a time? In short, why do I run?
I have never adequately answered the question, because the reasons are legion. Most of my friends are from running and triathlon. Finishing a 20-mile training run in the dark with a good friend is mind-blowingly satisfying. The best conversations, both trivial and significant happen during group runs. The best naps happen after a run. Finish lines rock, and almost nothing feels better than a PR.
At the end of the day, like it or not, I run because I am a runner. And we run.