Why I Run

"Why Do I Run?"

It's a question I probably ask myself more than others ask of me, and my answer changes depending on the day. Sometimes, I'm convinced I run because it relieves my stress. Other days, especially on painful runs, I'm not so sure. I don't even really remember exactly when I decided that I'd keep running except that it was sometime between my first day of Freshman year of college and when I started experiencing pain in what would become tendonitis due to overtraining that I decided I liked running.

I started slowly. I remember running for a minute and that minute feeling like an hour. It was a true breakthrough being able to run a whole mile without stopping to walk. I had no idea what my pace was, or what my heart rate was, and I probably wasn't even wearing proper running shoes. But I do remember that sense of accomplishment I felt after running a full mile without stopping. And I think that's really what keeps me coming back day after day.

Running is hard. It's not something for which I can thank my genes for providing me any talent. When I was in elementary school, I ran an 18 minute mile (jokes on the 7 minute milers, I thought, higher numbers are always better, right?) I participated in sports, basketball, soccer and tennis, but running was never the part that I enjoyed. Walking was much more my pace, and something that did help to reduce my stress during the thick of high school. (I'm still a huge believer in walking, and walk just about everywhere that I can.)

But nothing makes me feel like running does. I enjoy working my butt off and experiencing the return of a faster pace, or a farther distance, or simply not feeling so awful the next time. It forces me to tune in to my body. There's nothing else there to blame (besides the wind, damn you wind) when something doesn't feel right. It's a trial and error sport, and the puzzle of figuring out how to get better is so satisfying - when it works. When running feels good, it feels amazing. Running outside is the best. Breathing in fresh air and getting up-close-and-personal with all the corners of my neighborhood helped me feel at home much quicker after moving to a new city. There's no better way to learn the lay of the land and the feel of the city than by foot.

Running in races is the cherry on top of an accomplishment sundae. When I felt comfortable enough running and walking a few miles, I signed up for my first 5k. Even at that small county festival race, the feeling of being amongst other runners all preparing to accomplish the same goal was electric. When I finished, I felt like I had just climbed a mountain, but I was already thinking about running another one.

So I kept running. I joined the organization Girls on The Run as a volunteer assistant coach because I identified with the mission to introduce more girls to running at a young age, and met some amazing women. One of the coaches was an Iron Man finisher who told us she had started running a few years ago just doing a lap around the block. I think now she's completed another Iron Man and countless other Triathlons, and is a true example of simply "keeping at it because you like it and just look where it might take you". Coaching with GOTR was a huge lesson for me in my own running journey. I learned that running was much more than simple exercise - it opens the doors to a supportive community and builds so much self-esteem it's ridiculous.

Running can hurt. Like, really hurt. So much that you have to use crutches and walk with a limp for months on end and realize you had been a horrible person your whole life for not understanding what a blessing it is to be able to walk anywhere at the drop of a hat without pain. Running made me realize that it's not all about running. It's about everything else. It's about eating food that makes me feel good not only when I'm eating it, but three hours later when it's pushing me toward that next mile. It's about understanding what I can do now, and loving that, but wanting to do more. It's about getting really good sleep and taking really cold showers. It's about being realistic. It's about knowing my own vulnerability, and thanking my legs, and feet, and heart, and lungs, and eyes, and really every single body part for working together to perform small miracles every day.

I run because the constant challenge keeps me focused. I have a goal, and the goal is me. It's me against myself, only I'm building myself up not breaking myself down. I'm learning more about my own body and mind than I ever have before, and I finally feel confident and able -- and that confidence seeps into other areas of my life too. I'm more outgoing now. I trust myself and my own decisions. I fight back when I feel pushed down.

I sign up for a marathon. (And I will finish it)

Hannah Meier