At my best, four days during the work week and twice on the weekend, you’ll find me out of the house at 4:30 a.m. to run. It’s always dark, rarely warm, at times foggy, and because I live in the Pacific Northwest, at least two out of those six days you can bet it’s raining.
It doesn’t matter.
I still step out.
I’m a runner.
In an average week I have a job that requires 40 hours of my undivided attention, and 5 hours to commute. As a divorced mother of two teenagers and one very large dog, 48 hours are spent grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry, cleaning my house, walking my dog, helping with homework and hanging out with my kids (my favorite pastime next to running). I sleep about 49 hours a week.
When you do the math, I’m left with 26 hours. If it’s a great week those 26 hours are filled with running. All 26. That’s a great week. If I go to a movie (without my kids) or date at all, it cuts into my 26 hours and while all of that can be fun, it’s not a great week, it’s simply a “good” week.
When I started running (August of 2009) I did it because I saw others doing it and they seemed to enjoy it. It was touch and go in the beginning. I didn’t understand what there was to love about running. I didn’t understand why those people seemed to enjoy it so much. It was hard. I could barely run a minute before I had to walk. I couldn’t breathe and I was in pain the entire time. What the hell were these people doing?! And why?!
I didn’t quit though and somewhere along the journey I was able to run further, and simultaneously breath, with less and eventually no pain and I fell in love.
Running is time I spend for me. Alone (even in a crowd of thousands) with my thoughts and the pavement (or trail). The ground doesn’t care how fast or how far I go, if my running clothes are cute, or even if they match! It doesn’t care how old I am or if I choose not to run up that hill. That’s up to me. No one is judging or critiquing my performance. If anything, the other runners I see while I’m out exchange nods of encouragement and knowing smiles that simply say “I get it.”
I have had some of my greatest moments of clarity while I was running. Some of the hardest decisions I have had to deal with over the last 2 years have been mulled over while I ran. Some of my finest conversations with God have occurred while I’ve been running and some extraordinary plans for my future have been hashed out while I’ve run. It is my joy.
An even greater joy is to run while out-of-town. It’s truly part of the excitement of going out-of-town! Some of my favorite out-of-town runs have been: Downtown Seattle pre-dawn at Christmas. . . spectacular. Very few crazies are out and the lights are still twinkling from the night before. Cannon Beach at sunrise, breathtakingly beautiful. Cedar Point amusement park, deserted, eerie and kind of creepy in a wonderfully exciting way. The University of Michigan Campus, beautiful at any time, but special when it feels like it’s just you and the stately buildings alone. The length of the Embarcadero in San Francisco timed perfectly so when you reach the Bay Bridge the sun is just coming up. It’s enough to make you stop in awe.
In roughly 40 days I will run for the first time in Hawaii. I can admit that I am almost, almost most excited about that opportunity. But it’s a toss-up . . . yes I love running, but watching beautiful men, with fabulous bodies surf; sitting motionless on a lovely beach; or hiking amidst some awesome and amazing scenery will excite me just as much, if not more than running.
I have wished many times that I had discovered running earlier in my life. Truthfully, however, I know the time wasn’t right until now. I run because I say and believe that I can.
I run because its challenging. I run because it makes me stronger. I run because it makes me happy. I run because I love to run.
Running = freedom.
I run because I can.