May 21 2018
How running after losing my leg has helped me find my identity and purpose.
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is, “Why do you run so much?” Usually, I’m giving a quick answer like, “I just need to do it for my sanity.” Perhaps that only confirms their suspicion that anyone who runs as much as I do must be crazy, but
I don’t think most people who casually ask me that question want me to elaborate on exactly what that means or list all the reasons I run. But there are times when I don’t want to get out of bed or when I’m struggling through a particularly bad run that I have to remind myself of why exactly I get up so early every day, why I push through the difficult runs, hoping to sail through the next one.
I’m sure that many of the reasons that I run could apply to you as well:
I spend most of my day inside the office, at home, in my car or the grocery store. On many days, my run is the only time that I actually get to step outside. I get to feel the wind, the heat, the cold and even the rain. I get to smell the flowers, the dew, the sea. I get to hear birds, raindrops, crashing waves and the whistling of the wind.
There is no greater sense of satisfaction than what you get from setting a personal goal and conquering it. The runner’s high really does exist, both immediately after a run and in the longterm—from the confidence that crossing finish lines gives you that carries over into your daily life. When you accomplish hard things, you realize that you have the strength to not let anything get you down.
E-mail, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter notifications are pinging on my phone all day long. My run is the one hour a day when I am fully disconnected, even from “emergency” texts from my children. (I’ll confess that sometimes I stop to take a picture of something beautiful on my run, but I won’t check my notifications when I do that.)
Everything that I deem overwhelming seems manageable after a good run.
It allows me to voice all my insecurities and fears, and then tells me to let go of them.
It listens to all my hopes and dreams and makes me feel like I’m an invincible superwoman who can accomplish all of them. It’s like the imaginary friend that I had as a child, allowing me to play out all my fantasies in my head.
It allows me to curse and scream at it when I’m angry, heartbroken and disappointed; and is still there for me the next day as if nothing happened. It is that stable friend I can count on no matter how badly I treat it.
It has connected me with so many other runners, both in person through running groups and online. It has made me aware of the many charities that people run for, the causes that are close to their hearts and drive them towards pushing through mile after mile when it gets tough.
This doesn’t mean that I need to run to earn my calories. This means that my food actually tastes much better on the days that I run. Running makes me ravenous; it makes me thirsty; it makes me aware of what hunger is and what my body craves and needs to make it run even better.
I’m feeling air on my skin, the breath going in and out of my lungs, my muscles contracting, my heart beating in my chest. It is when I am most aware that yes, today, I am alive; I am living.