by: Jane Grates, Runner Click
I think that a lot of people have this romantic idea that people who like to run are born that way, like as soon as they stepped foot on this earth, they took off and haven’t stopped since. I’ve run for most of my life, with my earliest memories dating back to chasing boys on my elementary school’s playground, and my life experiences have shown me that people tend to think that if you run, a) you have always loved to run; b) you always want to run, and c) it’s something that comes (and has always come) naturally.
Of course, all of that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Now don’t get me wrong: obviously, I love to run. It’s fun, it’s a great way to decompress, and of course, it’s incredibly gratifying to push your body to do things that you would have never thought you’d be able to do.
Here’s the thing, though: running is really freaking hard work!
I’m not a scientist by trade or anything like that but think about it. Laws of nature (or good, ol’ fashioned common sense) would dictate that it’s a lot easier — and honestly, a lot more tempting, more often than not — to do nothing than to do something. When you’re running, you’re doing a whole lot of something: moving your legs, propelling yourself forward, pumping your arms, sucking wind, taking in your surroundings so as to avoid tripping over small animals or children…
And yet … and yet … for as hard as running is, I’m convinced there really isn’t any other activity like it, any other activity that basically all of humanity is wired to do. When we’re tiny little baby humans, we progress through various stages of mobility, and ultimately, we run. Somehow, we figure out how to locomote ourselves from Point A to Point B not by incessantly scooting ourselves or by crawling but by running.
Check out any playground, and chances are high that you’ll see children literally sprinting all over the place, even just to get to the other side of the park, instead of walking. Once they’ve learned how to run, they don’t think twice about it anymore; they just do it. It’s amazing to observe. As we age, somewhere in that process we lose this desire to want to hurl ourselves from Point A to Point B as fast as we can, and it’s often not until we’re much older (and surely fighting weight gain, muscle deterioration, and general malaise) that we again turn to our old trusty standby, running.
Something that I find so compelling about running is that it’s this great unifying thread between all of humanity. It’s something that binds us to our prehistoric ancestors, the ones who actually had to run after their dinner each day (and had to run so as to not become someone else’s dinner), and it’s something that our children can do, as well. Virtually all of my adult friendships I’ve made since graduating from college have come via running. This is especially cool to me because my friends and I come from vastly different upbringings, backgrounds, religions, political affiliations, and the like. Somehow, we can suspend all our differences because we run. It’s a very cool and ecumenical equalizer.
Even though I can remember running from a very young age and ran during high school, I took a break in college for a few years and didn’t really get into training and marathons until 2007. I can still vividly remember my first season of training for a marathon, back in the snowy and cold Chicago winter, where I seriously questioned my life’s choices as I put on layer upon layer of technical clothing to go outside and brave the elements for my long runs. Who in their right mind would do this stuff if they didn’t absolutely have to?! Making the decision to get out there each day was never effortless, but over time, the series of daily choices — what will I run today? — ingrained the habit into me.
Now, over thirty marathons and more than a decade later, I can say that running has become an indelible part of my identity. It’s a subject that, upon meeting strangers for the first time and discovering it’s something we share, automatically hijacks our conversation, much to the chagrin of any non-runners in our presence. It’s something that seems to have helped me earn points with the medical establishment, as virtually all my practitioners seem to predicate their conversations with “yeah, because you’re a runner.” And really, more importantly, it’s something that has been the avenue through which I have met countless other people who have made a huge impression on my life.
To say that running has profoundly changed my life wouldn’t really be that hyperbolic at all. I can’t imagine not running anymore or not being involved in the running community. It doesn’t mean that getting out the door to pound pavement or shred on the trails always come easily — much the opposite, in fact — but it does mean that this sport has given to me more than it has taken, and for that, I am quite grateful.
Lace up today and go see how your life changes.
AUTHOR’S BIO: JANE GRATES
A sports lover, fitness geek and co-owner of Rockay. Doing at the crossroads of aesthetics and function to craft meaningful ideas that endure. She also writes reviews and recommendations for sites such as Runnerclick, Nicershoes, GearWeAre, ThatSweetGift and BornCute.
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