Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I run... for now

There is always a lot of talk about why we as runners run. Magazines ask the question and give some answers. Non-running friends and family just look at us with a cock-eyed look and think we are insane. Most of us have seen a shirt like this.

When I talk to "normal" people about running they always seem perplexed as to why someone would run as much as I do. Usually I just tell them I'm crazy or nutso and like it and the conversation fades or changes to something else. Why do I let people off so easily? I think it's because so often when people ask a question, they think they'll get a simple answer. Mine isn't so simple. Also, I've noticed that although many people ask questions like "How are you?", "How was your weekend?", or "How's your family doing?" they rarely want you to go on and on for 3 hours about it. For some reason we are all hoping to hear a short simple answer and then if we are interested we'll ask more.

So here you go. You may not have asked the question but I'm going to attempt to tackle this question in this post. Understand that the word "attempt" is the key. I may not do it justice here and there may be yet more undiscovered reasons. By all means, do NOT feel any pressure to continue reading beyond what you desire. I run this blog but you don't have to like it or even read it.

I am writing this as I think about the subject. Some thoughts may not be in the best order so bear with me. Here are the reasons I can think of now:
  • To maintain a semi-healthy weight
  • Because my brother can't run anymore
  • Because I love being out in the mountains and woods
  • I love to push myself and see what I can do
  • I wonder if I'll ever be as fast as I was in HS
  • I enjoy being stereotyped as "strange" etc
  • It help me wake up in the morning
  • It helps compensate for some of my eating habits
  • It allows me a way to explore new places
  • It provides me with an instant connection to some pretty cool people
  • The occasional runner's high (sometimes followed by a silly fall)
  • It is a significant part of how I define myself
  • I run to think
  • I run to NOT think
My Story

I know a lot of people turn to running to escape problems in life; sour marriages, abuse, addictions, etc. That is NOT me.

I first started running in Junior High. My older siblings had almost all run track and field and so I felt like I should do it. Turns out I wasn't horrible. Or at least not as horrible as the others on my team. I was our best 800m and 1600m runner. I was even one of the fastest in the school at the 400m (not fast as all).

In High School I ran Cross Country and Track and wrestled (once again because that was what my family did). I enjoyed CC most. I loved running on trails and through the woods. Track was ok. I was too slow for the shorter distances and only did a little above average in the 3200m. I also liked running with my brother Larry. He was a senior when I was a sophomore and our team won the 1995 Colorado 5A State championship with Larry placing 3rd overall. I was the 6th man. I didn't count that day but it is an accomplishment neither my brother or I have forgotten.

After high school I would run from time to time for the first couple years of college. In 2002 I did my first marathon on what I now realize was crappy training, poor mid-race nutrition and no concept of what to do. I qualified for Boston. I vowed to never run a marathon again. I got married the following spring and although I'd still go for a run from time to time I wasn't a runner. I dabbled in skateboarding for a while (I started at the young age of 25) but I wasn't much good at it. I was chicken.

To maintain a semi-healthy weight:
By 2008 I had ballooned up to almost 230 lbs. I would get out of breath going up stairs, my belt cut into my stomach when I tied my shoes and I was pushing the limits of most of my pants. (I'll have to find a "fat" picture of myself. I know I have one at work.)

About this time I got a new job (my current one). I learned that it would require me to go out to eat with franchisees on a regular basis. Everyone told me that I would gain weight. I am a stubborn red head and that made me decide to prove them wrong.

Half IronMan
I have never been able to restrict my eating very well. It's not that I don't like healthy food. I do. I just also like a lot of things that aren't so healthy. I decided I needed to exercise more. I didn't have any experience besides running so I started running again. It was rough for a long time. I couldn't go very far at first and speed was out of the question but I felt better about myself and eventually I lost a bit of weight. When I got to 190 or so I hit a plateau. By this point I didn't care too much. I was more concerned with what I was able to do than what I looked like.The weight became more about not gaining than about losing. I was about 183 this morning (12/1/2011).

In 2009 I was fully back into the swing of things. That summer I did 2 marathons, a half marathon, a half ironman, a 15k, and a sprint triathlon.

It helps compensate for some of my eating habits
I'm still not the most healthy eater. I try to eat more healthy food but I am not above eating some Cheetos, chocolate or hamburgers from time to time.

Because my brother can't run anymore
Larry at a family reunion a year or two ago
My brother Larry and I were pretty close growing up. I am number 6 out of 8 kids and he was number 5. We did all kinds of things together. In 2000 he was on his way home and fell asleep at the wheel. He crashed into a wall and had to be extricated from the vehicle with the jaws of life. He spent about 2 months in a coma before slowly emerging. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) which left him with symptoms similar to a stroke victim. His left side has not worked normally since. He can see out of only the right side of both eyes, his left arm is almost useless and his left leg is difficult to control. He can walk with assistance but spends most of the time in a wheelchair.  

Team Larry
He is one of the reasons I run. Going from an able-bodied 3rd place runner in the state of Colorado to being in a wheelchair was rough on him. But as you can see in the shirt he's wearing, he still has his sense of humor. I asked him a while back what he thought about me running and he said it makes him feel good because, according to him, he's the one who taught me to run. While he didn't actually teach me to run, he showed me how to run strong and fast. I have only beaten him in one race in my life. A 10k and I only beat him by a minute or so.

The Brain Injury Association of Utah does a 5k run every year and my family has been doing for about a decade. This past year we actually made shirts that say "Team Larry". There were probably about 15 of us in these shirts at the race this year.

I love being out in the mountains and woods

There are people who love to run on roads all the time.  I am not one of them. The only reason I can tolerate the monotony of the road is because it keeps me fit enough to run on trails when I get the chance. I would love to be able to run solely trails but it isn't feasible all the time. I am trying not to hate the road as much and I've come up with some ways of making it more exciting.

I love being able to run to and from a point of interest (say Old Juniper) in less time than it would take to hike there or horseback ride there. Seeing some awesome country and exploring new places is a huge motivator for some of the tougher runs I do.

It allows me a way to explore new places
Speaking of exploring. I travel for work occasionally and running in the morning not only helps me maintain a bit of my normal activities but it helps me explore and orient myself quicker to new environments. 

I love to push myself and see what I can do/ I wonder if I'll ever be as fast as I was in HS
As much as I just simply enjoy running. I enjoy pushing myself. Sometimes I'm trying to be faster than last time and sometimes I'm trying to go further, higher, or faster than ever. 

I enjoy being stereotyped as "strange" etc
Growing up with red hair helped me get used to the idea that being different isn't all that bad. (I didn't realize I had gingervitis).  I grew to embrace being "different". Being called crazy isn't bad at all.

It helps me wake up in the morning
I run in the mornings to be able to spend quality family time in the evenings. Now I've noticed that it seems to take me a few hours to fully wake up if I don't run first thing. It's kinda weird. It's best when you can greet the new day as it begins.

It provides me with an instant connection to some pretty cool people
Some of my favorite people are runners. We always have something in common. At the beginning of 2011 I joined  I was already tracking mileage through but I thought I'd try it. I have met some of the coolest people I know on DM and some of them I have met in person. I am now officially more addicted to DM than FaceBook. I check it at least 2-3 times more often. In addition to online friends. I love the camaraderie at races. Especially trail races. Road runners can be cool but many are a little arrogant or hot headed. Trail runners are a little more my type of people. Relaxed.

The occasional runner's high (sometimes followed by a silly fall)
Usually when I get the runner's high I yell out "woo hoo" or something like that. Sometimes that distracts me and I trip on a rock and bite it. Still totally worth it.

It is a significant part of how I define myself
I claim to be a runner. I don't claim to be the smartest, fastest, best dressed, thinnest, or most correct runner by any stretch of the imagination. I also try very hard not to judge anyone else who isn't as fast as me, experienced as me, or who runs less miles than me. I say anyone is welcome to become a runner. I just ask that you RUN! For you it could be a 5 min mile or a 20 minute mile. If you are running, you are a runner. First day or 50 years experience.

I run to think/ I run to NOT think
Most of the time I just let my thoughts ramble. I think about what song I'm listening too, occasionally sing along or try to get the song in my head to change when I don't run with tunes. But I have found that running allows me a time that I can plan out the day or think about loved ones and on occasion even pray.

Running really does mean a whole lot to me. It isn't always fun but it is usually rewarding or provides a sense of accomplishment. After all, I ran that.

So why do you run?