I rarely meet runners who didn't start running as a way to run away from their problems. The best part about living in New York and commuting to races early in the morning are the subway cars filled with runners. I often end up talking to my fellow runners and I love to ask them why they started running. The most popular answer I get is, "I was going through a breakup." The rest say, "I didn't know who I was anymore so I just started running" or that they "can't remember a time when they weren't running."
When I started running I was stuck. I like to believe we are always moving towards something because the end of one thing is the beginning of something else. My life as a student had ended and I found myself unsure of my next steps. It all got to be to much for me to handle so one day (Ironically Thanksgiving Day) I started running. And the next day I did it again. Time flew and two months after my first 3 mile walk/run (that took me well over an hour), I found myself at the starting line of my first half marathon. I had no clue if I was going to be able to run the entire thing or what would happen. I'd never thought to want to do anything like that and I didn't know what to expect. The opportunity arose a week before the race. My best friend Irene asked me if I wanted to run a half marathon at Disneyland with her. I wasn't prepared and I was flying by the seat of my pants.
Support. That is the only word I would use to describe what it means to be a runner. Everyone wants to see everyone succeed and that success is much bigger than crossing a finish line. When you train for any running event, who you are as a human being changes and transforms. It's hard to explain the change but it's the most empowering feeling I've ever encountered. When you're a runner, you belong to this incredible club full of people (almost all of them strangers) who have your back.
I remember Mile 10 of my first half marathon, I started to think I wasn't going to make it. My legs felt like lead and the doubts started to play on a loop. Then out of nowhere a girl with a Team In Training singlet ran up next to me and tapped me on the shoulder. She introduced herself and told me that we had been running next to each other for miles and asked if I wanted to run with her. Just like me, she was running her very first half marathon and wasn't sure she was going to make it. We started to get to know each other, I asked her why she started running and before we knew it, we were at Mile 11. We both felt our first tastes of possibility and decided we would try to focus on people ahead of us to pass. About halfway to mile 13, she told me she was going to stop to take a break but to go on without her. I knew if I stopped I wouldn't be able to get going again so I thanked her for getting me to the finish and we parted ways.
I remember repeating to myself, "Just don't stop. You're so close. You're almost there." That last .6 miles was the longest .6 miles of my life. But when I saw the finish line, a gun went off in my head and I started the race of a lifetime. I was now a runner. I waited for my Team In Training angel at the finish line, we hugged and I never saw her again. But it was in that moment that I realized when you're running these big races, you're never alone. There's always someone to support you and do away with the self doubt.
The question now isn't why I started running but rather why I continue to run. And besides being able to push through my fears and self doubts (or my cupcake habit) the biggest reason I continue to run is because of the running community. It's because I feel like my place in the Universe is with the runners.
There are still days where running feels impossible. I'll work a long day and just want to go hide under my covers but instead force myself to lace up and run. It's in those moments that I remember I get to be whoever I want to be. I'm not limited by my given circumstances. I am reminded of the patience life requires when things get tough, and most importantly that pain and frustration is temporary. I don't run fast and sure I have goals but at the end of the day, I'm running because it makes me happy. Because I don't feel like me when I'm not running.
There's my story...why did you start running? Until tomorrow, #RunSelfieRepeat.