When I’m asked “When did you start running?” I wish I had a simple answer. In my mind, the answer is conflicting.
My first answer: I, like many people, have been running since childhood. Running is a natural movement that we all do. In elementary school, I always loved racing “the boys” at recess (because I knew I’d always win thanks to an early and serious growth spurt), running around my neighborhood, and a playing ALL the sports that involved running. I was just a busy body. A long, lanky, twig that adults thought just “ate like a bird” but in reality: just loved movement. In my mind, a completely normal child.
My second answer: Since middle school. 8th grade is when I was recruited by the nearby high school to run Varsity track. They saw me running for fun and asked me to join in on a practice. I thought, why not? I never (even now) thought it was anything special. I just thought they needed someone. And there I was. I continued running Varsity track (as well as school and club volleyball, school and Select soccer, and cross country) and excelled in the 400m, 800m, 4×4, 4×8, high jump, and long jump. It was a true miracle for me to get to all my track events on time – often (literally) running from one to the other, still huffing and puffing from the last sprint or jump. My most successful moment in track was running the 4×4 at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas. This is a huge event. I ran the 400 meters in 60 seconds flat. My fastest time. I only knew it was a PR because Coach told me I looked like a “real runner” and beat my record. I never even knew what a PR was, kept track of records or time, wore a running watch, or even knew what a “good” or “bad” time was for any of my runs. I just knew to run hard. I didn’t work out outside of school or really take it seriously – I didn’t even consider myself a “runner!” (which is just now sounding crazy as I type this!)
My third answer: Two years ago. Early 2016, I was asked if I wanted to go on a girls’ trip to Las Vegas. Sounds fun, right?! One tiny detail: it was to run a half marathon. At this point I’d just started enjoying running during and after college for 10-20 minutes at a time here and there outdoors (again, no running watch so no idea how far, fast, or anything – 20 minutes was a “long run” then). So I thought why not? Sounds fun (I think!)! I go to the website to sign up and – what do you know! – the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series was running a special deal! The Half Marathon and Full Marathon were the same price! I didn’t even hesitate (and probably didn’t even know how many miles a full marathon was) once I saw “free finisher’s jackets for Marathoners” and signed up to run 26.2 miles (more bang for my buck, right?!). Next thing you know, I’m training to run 26.2 miles. I got really into it. I started a Twitter and an Instagram (and this blog) to track my progress. I took it seriously, and rarely (if ever) missed a workout. So. This is when I was like “OK, I’m a ‘runner’ now!” I was now a dedicated runner. Ran daily. Kept track of my miles. The works.
So. There you have it. These are three points in my life that I became a runner. I’ve never been good at multiple choice tests – there is always more than one correct answer.
My point to all this is: is it really when you became a runner that matters?
I think the important part and the more relevant and interesting question is: When did you fall in love with running?
If you would’ve asked me this yesterday, I would have struggled to answer. I know I love running because I love being outdoors, exploring, and it just plain makes me feel good. Nothing complicated. But why do I love it?
Today, I had an epiphany.
It was a chilly winter morning in Minnesota. I was maybe 15 years old. My mom, dad, and I were there because my grandmother was at the Mayo Clinic getting the best treatment possible for her Pancreatic Cancer. I was told it “wasn’t a good cancer to have.” Before we went with Grandma to her appointment, my Dad woke me up from a family member’s pull-out couch in the basement. (My family lives in Minnesota). Ready for our run? Ugh. I forgot I said I’d run with him. I’m tired. I always struggle to keep up with him, so bed sounded better. But I couldn’t say “no” to my dad in his long socks, basketball shorts, neck warmer pulled over his face, and mittens. I rolled out of bed.
We get outside and it feels good. It’s daylight outside and it’s cold, but feels nice. The neighborhood is gorgeous. So green and open. Tall buildings don’t mask the beautiful sky. When I normally run with Dad, I’m counting down the minutes until the run is over, but before I know it we are running around a gorgeous lake. I remember the way the water looked, the blue, cloudy sky, and the stone bridges. There was a paved trail and we passed by a few people, but not many. It was quiet. Everything is so vivid, even now in my memory. I remember this whole trip like it was yesterday. My grandmother was like a mother and best friend to me. It just seemed like a dream.
I didn’t realize it until now. This moment. Running with my dad in Minnesota. This was when I fell in love with running. I felt free. Truly free. Like nothing was real. Like everything would be OK. Forever.
I didn’t even know how much time had passed. We just kept running. We played follow-the-leader through the trail and over a bridge. I didn’t feel tired. I just ran and looked at everything that I could.
Little did I know that these few days that I remember so vividly would be the last moments that I spent with Grandma. I thought she was invincible. It brings me to tears to remember the feeling. Tears of sadness and joy.
I love running.