Running for the right reason
As a little girl, I grew up with household names like Steve Prefontaine, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Florence Griffith Joyner (Flo Jo), Michael Johnson and Marla Runyan. I grew up in a house that tape-recorded the Summer Olympic Track and Field events in case we weren’t home to watch them live on TV. I grew up knowing that in the Olympics there’s no 1600 meter run, but instead it’s a 1500 meter run. I grew up watching world and Olympic records break.
A bit of background if this seems confusing... My mother was a Division One runner at the University of Michigan, and throughout my childhood I heard stories from my grandpa about my mom’s success. Watching her run was like watching a gazelle, he’d say. In the 70s when my mom began her high school running career, she had to run with the boys since there wasn’t a girls’ track team yet created. She was even among the first women athletes on the track and cross country teams at the University of Michigan. I had dreams of some day becoming a talented runner like my mom – a woman who was a part of an historic time in women’s athletics no less. I dreamed of out running all the boys and leaving them in my dust just like my mom had.
I’m sure you’ve guessed by now that those dreams never actually came to fruition. As I got a little older, my idealist views of running waned and I came to the realization that I wasn’t a gazelle. I quickly became disenchanted with the idea of running for fun. To me, there was no such thing. I wasn’t very fast and I also didn’t have the endurance of my distance running friends so I wrote it off as just not for me.
It wasn’t until a couple years after I graduated college that I thought about picking up running again. It was on my own terms and I was able to ease into it. There was no pressure to beat a certain time or even run a certain distance so I started out small, building my endurance incrementally a few weeks at a time. Before I knew it, I was running 15 miles a week. That soon became 20, then 25. For some, running 25 miles a week is nothing. Running five miles in one go is a warm up for the more serious runner but for me, it was a huge accomplishment. Never in my life had I run five miles consecutively! It became a routine part of my day; a new normal. I was healthier, more active and had more confidence not just about my physical state, but confidence in a sound mind.
One of the things I love most about running is that it goes along with the flux and flow of my life. I can do it anywhere we live. If I have 30 minutes, I can get a good, full-body work out in. I don’t need machinery or a team, though I hear running clubs are great! I can get outside and clear my head with some fresh, albeit humid, Okinawan air. Running gives me peace. It’s my thinking time and it helps maintain the structure of my days. It’s my morning quiet time to think and be thankful with no distractions. But these days, life is busy and if I can get through ten miles a week, that’s a good week.
Although I can sometimes be discouraged by the number of miles I’m not running, I have to remind myself that I am still a runner. I am still logging miles, wearing out running shoes and washing running clothes every week. And that’s really the point, isn’t it? We don’t need to be professional athletes to be active and healthy. I think being healthy is about finding a balance between those two. It’s about finding what works for your life and your body. Right now, I can’t run as much as I used to, but that’s okay. I find other ways to stay active like going on walks with friends and chasing two dogs around. When your body is healthy, chances are, your mind is healthy, too.
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