I started running seventeen years ago because, frankly, I had gotten fat. Looking back, it is embarrassing to think about that time of my life. Though I started gaining weight in college, I gained the majority of it the year after graduation. It was a combination of being lazy, working in a job I didn’t like and spending a good portion of each day eating.
The week after I was married, I went to the doctor, stepped on the scale and got the surprise of my life. I was officially fat. Until that moment, I had been in denial – simply ignoring my ever expanding waist. That evening, I decided I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I decided to start running. Because I was so young, the weight came off as quickly as it had gone on. Within a couple of months, I was thin and well on my way to being fit.
After losing the weight, I continued to run. As a new runner I had started to read everything I could get my hands on about the sport. I came to realize that the health benefits alone were enough of a reason to continue running. So the evolution continued and I ran, as they say, away from the reaper. I ran away from heart disease, breast cancer, diabetes and so many other diseases caused by obesity.
As life continued both on the roads with my running and in our lives at home, the babies started coming, the work started piling up and the stress of real life started seeping into our lives. My running once again evolved. I started running after work before heading home to my children as a way to leave the stress behind me. I found myself using my daily run as a sort of therapy. I started thinking of it as something that benefited not just me but everyone around me. After all, I am a lot easier to get along with after I run.
Though I continue to run for fitness and mental health, my purpose for running has continued to develop. Fifteen years ago I joined a local running club and starting running their race series. I started running for competition – sometimes to compete with others but most often to compete with myself. Since that time, I have run trail runs and road races. I have run everything from 5ks to 50 milers. I have competed in marathons all over the United States and have even traveled out of the country for races. I love to have a goal – to know there is a race coming up and to aim for my best time in that race.
Until recently the competitive phase of my running was my favorite. But after turning forty last year, I have decided I quite enjoy the fact that running makes me feel young. It allows me to do things other forty year olds might not get the chance to do. I hope that it helps me to look a little younger than the next forty year old but beyond that I have come to realize that running lets me have the kind of fun most people my age have simply outgrown.
I go to our local park and run through the woods. If the path is muddy I don’t avoid it, I trudge right in and come out the other end covered in mud. On a rainy morning, a non-runner looks out the window and does one of two things, grumbles about the bad weather or thanks God for the water for their lawn. I look at the rain and rush as quickly as possible for my shoes. A chance to run in the rain, to splash through the puddles, to get soaked from head to toe is something that is just too good to resist. These mornings are just one more bit of proof that running is fun.
Life goes on and things change in our lives over the years, but even with the evolution my running has taken, the benefits have stayed constant. The pure joy it offers is always there. The health and fitness I have gained are still there. The feel of my legs floating over the surfaces, be it asphalt or packed trails, is still as great today as it was seventeen years ago. My running has evolved, but in so many ways it is the one constant I know I can always count on.