The Question Every Aspiring Runner Should Ask Themselves

Why Do You Run?

I was sitting in lotus position, hands to my heart and ready for class to start, when my yoga instructor posed a question that caused me to have an epiphany about running. He asked us to ask ourselves why we were there and why we kept coming back. “What is your why?” was the mantra and theme he kept returning to, and while I probably should have been pondering why I was attempting to take flight in crow pose for the thousandth time, all I could think about was why I kept coming back to running after failing at it for more than 20 years–and why I can finally say that I have the right to own the “runner” title.

I became a runner somewhere around age 40. For me, I define a runner as someone who runs regularly for the joy of running, because running has become almost as essential to her as food, water and shelter. In the years that followed, my every attempt to become the runner I envisioned failed. While I was in that yoga class, I had an aha moment about my previous failures…I had never had a proper WHY.

The only reason I ever tried running was because I wanted to exercise to lose weight. The fact that I didn’t actually need to lose weight and have never been overweight is a whole other story and an all too familiar trap that many women fall into. Every time I set out to become a runner, I thought of it as an efficient way to burn some calories. I’d go out and try to run, it would hurt my chest and my lungs and my legs, and I’d quit. I didn’t have a real reason to push beyond that painful first 1 to 3 miles, and I’d inevitably give up again.

Finally a day came when I was sitting at a birthday party, talking to another mother who told me that she had just run her first half marathon. That day, all I could think about was why she could be a runner and I couldn’t. Why can’t I run a mile? What does she have that I don’t? Why can’t I be an athlete and someone who enjoys exercise?

I decided right there at that party that I was going to run a half marathon—no matter what it took. For the first time, I wanted to run: not to burn calories, but to redefine myself. To prove myself wrong. To be the person that for years I had told myself I couldn’t be. To show that it wasn’t too late to find myself. I finally had a real, meaningful why. Once I had defined that why, I was able to come up with a plan and push past the pain of those first few miles, push through the first few months, and eventually completely redefine and find myself.

If you are new to all of this or just thinking about becoming a runner, you’ll find a wealth of information here about what you need to get started and increase your chances of success, from the proper sports bra and shoes to body glide, foam rolling, proper nutrition, cross-training, and plans to get you through any distance from a 5-kilometer race to a marathon and more. But before you dive into all of that, I’d advise you to consider what I found to be the most essential ingredient to becoming a runner: finding your WHY. Losing weight is not a real why, but being able to chase after your kids or hike with your partner is. Raising funds for cancer is. Finding yourself and meditating on the run is. Bringing awareness to a cause or proving to yourself that you have no limits once you make a decision is. What is your why? Go after it.

Related:

Answering The Question: Why Do You Run?

Why Do You Run?