Why Do I Run?
By Aileen Baxter
One part love affair. One part addiction. Why I choose to lace up my shoes.
I am a runner. I will always be a runner. I love running so much, that I recently grinned when my 10 year old saw a gray haired octogenarian lumbering down the block, and pointed, “Look, that’s going to be you, mom.” Random aside: I do have a reputation for being a 90 year old in a 42 year old’s body — I can often be found drinking tea under a “cozy blankie”, wearing fuzzy wool socks, and complaining about being cold. I can also nap on demand. But I digress...
Why do I run? This is a question that I was contemplating last week (during a run, natch). So I’ll begin my story by sharing the reasons why I DON’T run.
I don’t run competitively. In fact, I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. When I didn’t make the high school softball team, I happily rode the pine all season as an “honorary” scorekeeper. I let my little sister beat me in War and Connect 4 more times than I can count. I went to soccer camp one summer and then decided it was too cutthroat. I was a people pleaser — more interested in cheering on my team from the sidelines than beating an opponent.
I don’t run to lose weight. I am happy at the weight I am and sometimes even gain a few pounds with lots of running (muscle weighs more than fat, right?).
I don’t run to improve my time or performance. While I have participated in a few marathons, I’m not sure that 26.6 miles is good for the old hips and lower back (see grandma reference above), and I’ll be okay if I never run one again.
So why do I run?
Well, my relationship with running started back in 7th grade. I had a friend named Mary who attended the same elementary school. Mary was an enigma to me — she was just so darned nice and so darned cheerful all the time. I didn’t get it. Did she take happy pills every morning or was this a natural high? I had to find out. Upon getting to know Mary better, she told me that she enjoyed running. Huh? Running for fun? Hardly. But Mary (and her damned cheerfulness) left me intrigued. I still remember the first line of a poem she wrote and shared with me on the playground one day.
Why do I run? Ain’t no mystery. Want to have a good medical history….
This article is a hat tip to Mary. After 30 years, I still remember her poem and think of her as a person with amazing positive energy. Her poem was the turning point in my love affair with running.
Alright, let’s get to it. Here are the reasons why I do run.
I run for the high. We have all heard about the “runner’s high.” Well, it’s a real thing —and it’s awesome. Something about elevated endorphins and decreased cortisol. Running has a positive effect not only on your body, but also on your mind. A good run leaves me clear-headed, calm(er), and ready to tackle my hectic life. There are many days that I return home a completely different person than when I left for a run. It’s mood magic.
I run for the alone time. With 3 kids, a husband, a puppy, and a job, I lead a busy life. Running is my escape. I typically head out in the early morning before anyone is up and run (gasp!) without headphones. I like being with my own thoughts. Many days, my best and most inspired ideas come to me during a run. Plus, I am one of those annoying people who loves mornings. There’s something so energizing about starting a new day and wiping away all of the ‘stuff’ from the day before. I cherish my morning runs.
I run to be social. While I do love my solitary morning runs, I also appreciate a fun run with friends. I have met some of the most interesting people through running, and I look forward to great conversations when we hit the pavement. Because our moods our elevated and we are clear-headed, it’s a chance to brainstorm, laugh and inspire each another. And runners are generally pretty darned nice people (see Mary reference above).
I run to be in nature. I am an outdoor runner. If I am forced to run on a treadmill because it’s too cold (10 degrees is my threshold), I will. However, running outside in all weather is the cheapest and most rewarding form of exercise (IMHO). Running outdoors allows me to be more present, breathing in fresh air and stopping to smell the roses — or dog poop depending on my route that day.
I hope that my story resonates with all you runners and makes you want to lace up RIGHT NOW. If you are not a runner and are still reading this, give it a try. You may hate it the first time, but after experiencing a runner’s high, you may crave more. It’s the best addiction you’ll ever have. You’re welcome.