I've heard runners say that if you have to ask why we run then you don't get it. It sounds very arrogant, but it's true. That being said, nobody loves running when they start. Trust me. It's not like you lace up yours shoes for the first time, start out, run 5 miles and it's glorious. It hurts, you're out of breath after half a mile, and it's hard. It's always hard, but when you start it's brutal. That begs the question what keeps us going?
I run to feel normal. Normal is relative to everyone, but for me I get in that running zone and it's when I feel the best every single time. I ran track in high school and lived at the gym in college, but I only started running 5½ years ago. I always loved the idea of running, but made lots of excuses. Then I got sick, and that was the best excuse of all.
When I was 19 I started having some health issues. Mainly stomach problems. I went to a specialist, and they couldn't figure out what was wrong. When I was 21 years old I had three major surgeries and was subsequently diagnosed with Crohn's Disease. I went from being healthy and muscular to losing about 30 pounds in a few months. Who needed to go to the gym? Who needed to run?
I spent several years doing yoga sporadically and walking, but exercising was not my focus. Getting through each day was my focus. There was no way I could run - it upset my stomach. Runners are notorious for having stomach issues. It's the focus of many Runner's World articles. Having Crohn's makes that worse. Seriously - running just wasn't for me.
When I signed up for a marathon on a whim over 5 years ago, I knew it would be hard. What I didn't expect was that once I built up mileage and got into my running groove, I felt normal. Normal for me means I forget that my stomach is upset or whatever other unpleasant Crohn's symptom is bugging me that day. For those 3 miles or 5 miles or 13.1 miles it's just me and running. Sure my knees hurt, my feet hurt, and I'm tired. But that's normal. I'm a runner.
I used to be the kind of person who never ran on vacation. Vacation was just that - a break. Training for a race changed all of that. I'll never forget the first time I ran on a trip - on a hotel treadmill in Alexandria, Virginia. I did 8 miles on the treadmill. It was 95 degrees and humid out, so the treadmill seemed like the best option. After that running (now more frequently outside) became a highlight of every trip. Now I can't wait to hit the road in another town. Running shoes are a required packing item. They aren't always the easiest to fit in a suitcase, but they're a necessity.
There are days when I just don't feel like running. And as perfectionist with a Type A personality, it's hard for me sometimes to realize that it's okay to take those days off. But sometimes fighting through that doubt and hitting the road is the best cure for any ailment. I'm often asked how I deal with having Crohn's and doing all that I do. There are two ways I can live my life: I can either be sick or I can push through it and live the best life that I can. I only get one shot at it.
I'm heading to my work's convention this week in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and my suitcase is bulging with my running shoes in the front. So...what are you running for?
(As an aside, I now have Pat Benatar's "Invincible" in my head. It's a do or die situation - we will be invincible!)