For as long as I could remember, I hated running. The worst days of the school year were always the days of our physical fitness tests during gym class. More specifically – the day we had to run a mile. I could never understand the kids who were able to zip around the track four times so quickly and was often the last ones to finish. It was embarrassing and disheartening and it was all because of running. Years later, I couldn’t have imagined that running would be one of my favorite hobbies, a life-changing activity that has improved several aspects of my life, including my health and relationships.
I have friends from grade school who, knowing me now, ask how I have become such a dedicated runner. I was the person who loudly griped to my friends whenever gym class forced any sort of lengthy running, after all. It seems bizarre to them that I’m so committed to running now, tracking my results avidly and spending time blogging and writing about the activity in general.
When they ask why I run, I give them several reasons:
Making up for a Sedentary Childhood
People tend to assume that avid runners are the type of people who always enjoyed it. You know, the kids who loved playing soccer and other sports that required heavy running. I wasn’t big into sports — you’re talking to a former band geek and yearbook editor. By the time I reached college, prior years of minimal physical activities resulted in me not being in the best shape. The “Freshman 15” didn’t help either.
Halfway through my freshman year of college, I met my future husband. Like me, he wasn’t in the best shape either – but boy was he cute. We weren’t extremely unhealthy, but by no means did we resemble athletes or avid runners. We both did love friendly competition, though, whether it was a video game or a short, playful race to the car `just to see who could win’. The latter is partly what made me think, “Hey, running isn’t so bad,” as racing against my then-boyfriend, now-husband for some small stakes — like who would do each other’s laundry that week — actually made running fun (even though I pretty much always lost)!
Like many freshmen who put on some weight during their first year due to a lack of home cooking and being very busy with schoolwork, I wasn’t too happy with the way my body looked a few months into the semester. Apart from the aforementioned short races, I hardly worked out — I barely had the time, and especially not the motivation at that point.
I spoke with my future husband about this, and he revealed similar insecurities about his own body. He had gained some weight as well, so he proposed a solution: “Let’s run together!” Initially I looked at him like he was crazy. “Run? As in, intentionally run for no reason?” I asked. He responded: “Well, we can lose weight and do it together.”
I thought for a second about how much I detested running growing up, but then also thought about my future. I figured that if I was already out of shape in college, I might be in a very bad situation at this rate in a decade. Worse – I might end up like my extremely overweight and unhappy parents. I also realized how fortunate I was to be in good health — nearly one in five people in the U.S. has a disability. My sweet cousin, born with cerebral palsy, would love to run and can’t. And here I was shunning it like it was a disease in itself. I had the ability to exercise. I knew that running gets you in shape, so I put aside my long-standing feud with running to lose some of the new weight I’d gained.
Getting to Know My Husband
Although I took my future husband up on his offer to start running, it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes (read: every run) I complained and whined and cursed at him for “making me” run. “This sucks! I’m tired! Let’s stop.” But he endured it like a champ, encouraging me to keep going. Looking back, it revealed a trait that I love to this day about my husband: He turns complaints into logical solutions and practices patience as others become familiar with that solution. After every run with him, I look at my husband and admire how he pushed me for our mutual well-being. It’s helped bolster our relationship for sure. My husband was a tremendous inspiration because he believed in me before I believed in myself. It was one of the reasons I married him.
Maintaining Overall Health and Well-Being
Initially, I just ran for a superficial reason: to make my body look good. When running became a routine, that goal eventually became a reality, and I got to a point where I was running more for maintenance and general fitness than to specifically lose weight. With weight loss not on my mind anymore, I wondered what my primary motivation should be when running from this point on. Remembering my love for competition, I figured that maybe I should enter a real race.
With my only race experience being against my husband and me always hating running in front of others since grade school, the thought of a marathon was terrifying. Eventually, I realized how ridiculous I was being and decided then and there that I was going to run a half marathon that fall — and I did. Since then, I have done two half marathons and am proud to say that I am training for my first full marathon this fall.
Seizing the Day
Now, running gives me a sense of freedom and a way to explore the world. I know I won’t be young and able forever, so while I can run, I plan to fully enjoy it. There will be days in the future when I’m older and my joints may not be having it anymore. Then I’ll be required to take up walking or more leisurely activities instead, but while I’m healthy, it seems like a waste of my body not to run.
In addition, running has fun competitive aspects, relationship-bolstering benefits and has a range of obvious health benefits, particularly in regard to improving your cardiovascular health. I run because it makes me feel alive, brings me closer to loved ones and fosters a sense of competition that reaffirms that I’m alive and taking full advantage of it.
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