Fact: I don’t listen to music of any kind on any of my runs.
Fact: I don’t own a Garmin or any other GPS watch.
Fact: My race day uniform consists of tattered running shorts I have had for at least 8 years.
Fact: I would rather run in a blizzard than log miles on a treadmill.
Fact: 99% of my runs are completed by myself, alone.
Depending on your point of view, you might lump me into one of the following categories 1) Hippie 2) Freak Show or as my husband oh-so-affectionately refers to me as 3) The Purist Running Snob. If this holds true, I respect your opinion, but I have to disagree.
I don’t need the fanciest technical running gear to get my tush out the door, truth be told, some of the more expensive running gear fits me so strangely, and is super uncomfortable. I really don’t know what I am going to do when my favorite shorts disintegrate from all the wears and washes. I fondly remember one of my first races, back in first grade, I did just fine in that 50 yard dash on the local high school track in my cotton t-shirt, shorts, socks and L.A. Gear tennis shoes.
I don’t need music to propel me to and through my next mile. Some races even frown upon the use of headphones during races, mainly for safety purposes. I have been in races (ahem, Chicago ’07, aka, hell), where emergency staffers needed to alert participants on the status of the race. Had I been jamming away to my favorite tunes, I most likely would not have heard some very important information. Also, if I had a dollar for the number of times I have tried to pass another runner in a race, and alerted them with a shout of ‘On Your Left!’ only to be given no response, because they couldn’t hear me, I would be able to retire before my 30th birthday. Our ancestors didn’t have portable music devices that they could strap on prior to the gun shot, and the elites in our sport today don’t listen to music, so why should I? There is something magical in the air on race day, especially marathon day, that requires all the senses to truly grasp and appreciate all the amazingness that is going on around you.
I don’t need a top of the line watch to cause me to obsess about each of my mile splits. Sure, some days it would be awesome to know exactly how fast each mile was, but to me, there is something fun and exciting about not knowing. And with a fancy-pants watch, there would be no need for the hubs to drive me around and help me map out routes according to distances from our home. We use the odometer in our car, and I document with pen and paper corresponding landmarks for each approximate mile, it’s a fun way to include him in my beloved sport!
I loathe treadmills. Back in the day I ran on them all the time. When I tore my ACL in high school, a ton of my therapy was spent walking and running on treadmills. I have a negative connotation with treadmills, they remind me of my previous horrid sports injuries and I just find them so monotonous and boring. Why would I run on something and not really go anywhere? Half the fun of running is being outside in the elements, and exploring your neighborhood. And you never know what kind of weather Mother Nature is going to throw in your face on race day, and I like to be prepared. Another plus of training outside all year round.
I love being a part of a team. But there is something that I have come to love about being alone, especially in the wee hours of the morning on my long run days. Being able to carve out a few hours a week that are all mine, that I don’t have to share with anyone else is beautiful. Is it lonely? Sometimes. But the loneliness of the long-distance runner is a feeling unlike any other I have ever known. There is something exhilarating, beautiful and honest about spending so many hours and miles alone with only yourself, inside your own head, listening to the rhythmic pounding of your two feet against the pavement as well as the pumping of your heart and lungs.
I have used my running for good: I’ve coached middle schoolers, and hopefully exposed them to a lifetime sport that will contribute to keeping them healthy and around for years to come. I have helped coach a group of adults who wanted to walk or run their first 5K, which helped me appreciate my sport from a whole other perspective. I have run many a race that raises money and awareness for a multitude of charities, ranging from organ donation to fighting cancer. I have used running to celebrate some of the happiest moments of my life, and to process some of the most challenging and painful days I have ever known.
I run because I love it. It is my favorite thing to do in the world, the part of the day where I feel most myself . While out pounding the pavement, I am able to transcend to a different place, a place where I can do my best problem-solving, or where I can daydream of my future, or fondly reflect on my favorite memories, and a place where I feel the closest to God.
But that’s just me. After many years, I have found my perfect recipe for running bliss. Maybe we share some major similarities, maybe we are polar opposites. It doesn’t matter, so long as what you are doing makes you happy, and improves your relationship with running, and ultimately yourself.
‘The true runner is a very fortunate person. He has found something in him that is just perfect.’ -George Sheehan