I ran my fifth and final race of 2010 this past weekend: the OBX Half-Marathon. While standing with one of my running buddies in the corral waiting to start, I struck up a conversation (like you do when penned in like a herd of cattle) with an Amazon woman standing next to me wearing a shirt from the 2009 Goofy Challenge. You know, the one where you go down to Disney World and run the Donald Duck 13.1 on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse 26.2 on Sunday…and walk away with 3 medals and two very sore legs. And she’s done this not once, not twice, but FOUR times…and will likely do it again in January. According to her, once you do it once, you are addicted. She has also run the Boston Marathon–not because she qualified, but because she raised funds. She, like me, admitted that she’d never be fast enough to qualify. But she got my hopes up, especially when she said running Boston was everything everyone said it is. And this woman, mind you, has an average 13.1 finishing time that is slower than mine.
Somewhere in the first couple of miles of this race this weekend, I started thinking about why it is that thousands of people pay money to run lots of miles on a Sunday morning–and do all the training leading up to it. And I realized that every runner has a story. And every runner has a reason.
For some, it’s to make an extra couple of grand on the weekend when they finish 13.1 miles in 62 minutes.
For some, it’s to commemorate the birth of a child–and getting that pre-pregnancy body back.
For some, it’s the only thing that keeps them going…because focusing on 13.1 or 26.2 is way more fulfilling that that stupid number on the scale that never seems to budge.
For some, it’s proving something to someone else.
For others, it’s proving something to themselves.
For some, it’s showing the world that 42 is better than 35, and almost-31 is better than 21.
For some, it’s the feeling you get when you finish faster than you ever did…or just that you finish at all.
For some, it’s about letting go and trusting–really letting go and trusting–the work you’ve done and the hours and miles you’ve logged training to get you through a few hours in a day where so many variables can make or break your race experience.
For some, it’s the feeling of knowing that you are loved and cared for when your favorite people are at the finish line.
For some, it’s the feeling of knowing that the people bundled up in their coats and drinking coffee(?) are there to cheer you on–even though you are all complete strangers. But a stranger’s encouragement can be the thing to get you over the bridge.
For others, it’s about reclaiming–or claiming for the first time–one’s identity as an athlete…or as a runner.
There are many reasons to run. But whatever got you out there to the start line pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you cross the finish line.
And that’s why I run.