Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Labeling Myself

I have resisted the label “runner” for a long time now, I guess because I thought it meant I needed to be good at it. And by “good” I mean, “elite.” Since I’ve been running regularly the past few years, watching the distance events during The Olympics this year held my interest a bit more than it has in years past. Those guys (and girls) are FAST! Their standard pace is about three times faster than mine, easily. I’ve always known I’m not going to be an Olympian, and unless I’m riding horses or shooting weapons, certainly never going to attain that status as a woman of a certain age.

Once I gave into the realization that I’m never going to be an elite runner, never going to win a race, probably never even place in the top five for my age division in any race, I actually started thinking of myself as a runner. Runner (n): a person who runs. Run: (v) Moving one’s legs quickly at a pace faster than a walk.

People who don’t run don’t get why those of us who run do such a crazy thing. I frequently hear comments like, “I’ll run if I’m being chased.” I get it, I truly do. It seems like such a dumb thing to do. Anyone who willingly pounds their feet on the pavement in heat, cold, or rain, sweating profusely and all just to really kinda go nowhere – what’s the point?

I discovered running outside of the required PE classes and wind sprints for basketball when I was a sophomore in college. I had a challenging set of roommates (read: hateful girls) and being home wasn’t comfortable. If escaping to my office at the radio station wasn’t an option or seemed too confining, I could feel all those emotions bubbling up inside of me until there was nothing left to do, no other escape than to try and outrun all the negativity. I found power during those times. My lungs ached, unaccustomed to the work and the cold Rexburg air, but it relaxed and calmed me physically as no other activity could.

I rediscovered running as an overweight adult. Despairing that I would never get my athletic body back after a decade or so in a desk job, a woman – stranger on a Disneyland tram - told me that she had lost weight by just walking out to the mailbox. That was a challenge for her and was difficult because she was so overweight. She started walking around the block, and pretty soon was jogging. As she started to feel healthier and stronger, she started eating healthy also, and the pounds started coming off.

I thought to myself, “I can do that. I used to run. I used to exercise. My body knows what that feels like and craves it again.” So I did. The next night I tied on some tennis shoes, threw on some sweats and went for a jog. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but I felt that same sense of power I had felt years ago in college. “I can do this,” I thought. And I did. I was worn out when I got home, but that exhaustion couldn’t deplete the sense of accomplishment and strength I felt.

(True story – my roommate at the time, cimblog™ came home after I went jogging. I was in a run-induced stupor on the couch. She asked me what I had done that night and I told her all about what I had accomplished – that I felt like going for a run, and hadn’t been on one in a really long time, and I didn’t know how far I’d get but I ended up doing about two miles and didn’t stop the whole time and I felt great! She told me the next day that what had really come out of my mouth was, “…jog.”)

I am a runner. I don’t nurse any illusions that I’ll be great, but I am better today than I was yesterday (by two seconds, actually). I am stronger today than I was yesterday. I am more fit, I am energized.

Why do I run? I run because it feels good, because it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something great that day, that I’ve taken care of myself, that I can overcome negative thoughts, that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to. I run because it gives me the opportunity to know myself better. When it’s just the road and me, it’s the perfect time to spend in self-introspection. As I contemplate and mediate, I also get to know Heavenly Father better. He blessed me this morning with this sunrise:

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