Run For It

Today I ran the Orange County ½ Marathon and I am on top of the world. I ran with my friend Jeannine and we reduced our time by 8 minutes since our last race. We both felt an exhilarating sense of accomplishment. We have been training for months, had to register and pay in advance, battle SoCal traffic, and wake up at 4:00 am to negotiate a crowd of 15,000 other runners at the start line. Are we crazy? No, we are runners. But … why do we bother?

I have been a runner most of my life – never a champion, but steadfast. I had a poster on my dorm room wall in college stating, “The race is not to the swift, but to the one who keeps on running.” I have kept on running, and it has benefitted me immensely. I never gave it up for anything other than pregnancy or prolonged insomnia. I joined a running club as I recovered from depression 11 years ago, and it has produced profound blessings. With the support of the group, I have run two marathons and six ½ marathons. I run most days of the week, in the morning before work (but after coffee). Most importantly, I finish every run happier than when I began. It jump starts my day and ratchets up my endorphins. In my opinion, it is better than any antidepressant; it is not only free, the side effects are actually positive!

Someone recently asked me when I started running and why. I pondered for a minute and remembered: it was the summer after I turned 6 years old in Minnesota. Pam, my best friend from kindergarten, had moved into a newly built home ¾ of a mile from my house, down a long dirt road. My purple bicycle with the banana seat couldn’t forge through the thick sand. I had to walk. But, it took too long! I soon learned that I could get there faster if I ran. This left us more precious time to build forts, play monopoly, or roughhouse with her English Springer Spaniel “Jingles”. When I ran home (to meet my 6 pm dinner curfew) I noticed something else important: I gained a sense of wellbeing and a pleasant mood after running. I loved that feeling.

It has been 42 years now, and I have kept on running. Sometimes it’s a solitary and interior experience; other times it’s about camaraderie and community. Yet, in all its forms, running has helped me recover from pregnancy and childbirth, manage the strain of parenting young children, prevent and overcome depression and anxiety, face the daily stress of full time work, and adjust to the changes of the empty nest phase of life. Maintaining a comfortable weight has been another advantage – and no small miracle.

Being in a running club has enhanced my motivation and provided connections to other goal-oriented people who want to be healthy. My fellow running club members each have a unique story about what this sport has done to improve their quality of life and to overcome some kind of adversity. Their stories are varied and truly inspirational. For me, it is both a habit and a discipline which supports my balance and overall wellness. I plan to keep on running.

Clear it with your doctor first. Then, I encourage you to try it too – whether you walk, walk-run, or run. Regardless, you are getting outside, breathing fresh air, and moving. This all contributes to holistic health. If you like the support of a group, you can find a local running club on “meetup.com”. Get going now … run for it! You will be happy you did.