There's a look I get when I tell people who don't run that running is fun. They furrow their brows and scrunch their face up like they tasted something truly disgusting. But I get it, to anyone who doesn't run, running is a form of punishment. It's the horrendous activity their PE teachers made them do when they did something wrong. (No? Just me?)
I'm the self proclaimed former President of the "I F*cking Hate Running Club", and I spent decades convinced that in order to be a runner, you had to either be born a runner or naturally athletic. I always wanted to be a runner, but I thought it was never in the cards. Running was free and everyone who did it always looked so happy! Of course I wanted to be a runner! But every time I tried, I felt like I was dying. Today I understand that some people are in fact born runners but others are made.
Look, my first few months of running weren't fun. They were awful. In fact, if I were to die and go to hell, I imagine that being a new runner would be my punishment. But my life was crumbling, I had nothing better to do, no friends, and I was just desperate enough to log 13-15 minute painful miles so that I could exhaust myself enough to drown out the grief and anxiety that kept me awake at night. And for some crazy reason, the pain actually felt kind good. It was comforting to know that some pain meant that I was getting stronger so I stuck with it. But that first year of running was rarely fun. It hurt and I felt like it was never going to get any easier.
And here's a curve ball, it never gets easier, you just get stronger! And once that happens, the world is your oyster. I found the courage to start to run with people and I quickly realized that while running itself can be fun, running with fun people is a total and complete blast.
Personally, my heart has always been with the fun runners. The people who toe the line with the sole intention of coming in first place in the best time had during the race competition. Running is about putting your strongest foot forward and after spending the past six months kicking my ass to try to shave 24 minutes off of my marathon time in an attempt to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I learned that there's a balance we have to maintain between pushing our limits and making the most out of every single run.
This past weekend at the Runners World Half Marathon Festival, I didn't plan to run any of the race. I'm only a week post Chicago Marathon and my Coach Josh Maio wanted me to take 10 complete days off. But when my friends Goldie Graham and Brogan Graham told me that they wanted to fun run the half, there was no way in hell I wasn't going to be apart of that. I'm a sucker for a fun run and I don't know how to say no to a good time so we toed the line and set out to have the most fun possible. We stopped every mile to do push-ups (ok THEY stopped every mile to do push-ups, I attempted push-ups for the first 4 miles) and we talked to the people around us. We made cheer tunnels, jumped on trampolines, thanked spectators and police officers and enjoyed every second we spent on the 13.1 mile course. Our only goal was to have fun and that's exactly what we did.
I think for a lot of people who don't think they can run to their mailbox, running isn't something they'd ever think to try. But running, like anything worthwhile in life, isn't always easy. You have to put in the work and log the harder miles before you can throw caution to the wind and just laugh your way through it. It's been a long time since I ran a race for fun and being with Goldie and Brogan was the reminder I needed after trying to BQ.
Running shouldn't always be about getting faster or pushing your limits. Sometimes you have to throw your time goals out the window and just celebrate the running community. The next time you feel like you're stuck in a rut or dreading a run, put your favorite playlist on and take dancing breaks. Or run with some friends and give out high fives to strangers. Say good morning or good afternoon to the people you run by and stop to smell the roses. You won't regret it. Running is supposed to be fun.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.
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