Why I run

Ahhh. It’s that magical time of year when the weather is finally sorta warm, and the pathways are clear and the birds are chirping and people all over the city are busting out their running shoes and realizing that a winter full of Netflix hasn’t prepared them particularly well for a summer full of spandex.

The pain isn’t simply aesthetic: hitting the pavement gives your joints the jarring sense of reality that all your winter treadmill miles won’t prepare you for. If you ever want to get faster, you’ll have to learn to simultaneously shut down your rational sense of self-preservation while embracing the delightful sensation of almost-puking. And all that is before you factor in those vicious and and totally self-absorbed (who do they think they are?!?) geese that clog the pathways.

Why is running my hobby?

Ever since I was a kid in elementary school watching my friends’ parents dash by on the bike path, I’ve wanted to be a runner. I’m not sure why. Maybe it seemed accessible to a kid from a sports-disinclined family. Maybe it’s because I’m not coordinated enough to handle a ball without tripping over my pigeon toes. Maybe I had a masochistic streak even at that tender age. Whatever the reason, it’s always been my go-to sport. I’m kinda slow, and I’ve had take multiple breaks due to running injuries. But for some reason, I always come back to it.

Which is strange when you consider that this photo perfectly captures how I feel after most races*:

I was so utterly wasted by this race that my friend had to drive me home while I focused on not puking and not letting any excess light penetrate my eye lids.

The nice thing about running is that it gives you time to think. And ponder questions such as why do I run? And the answer that I always come back to is that running is a metaphor for life.

Running is uncomfortable. As with most things in life, to achieve any goals, you have to embrace discomfort. Like giving birth, or asking for a raise, or mending a broken relationship. It doesn’t always feel good. But the discomfort leads to growth.

Running can be monotonous. There have been times that I’ve thought about the kilometers that I have to run just to make it back to my car, and wondered whether sheer monotony or my lack of lung capacity would kill me first. But life can be monotonous. Putting your kids to bed every night. Showing up at work every day. Going to school for 12 years and then maybe signing up for more. It’s monotonous. But it’s part of what makes a life worthwhile.

Running is fundamental. All you really need is a pair of shoes (and some runners don’t even use those). You can acquire all sorts of fancy gear, but it’s not necessary. You don’t need a gym or a playing field. People from every culture and financial background run. It makes me think of the verse in Job: “naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.” We can’t take anything with us.

Running is beautiful. There are uncomfortable, monotonous run. And then there are the days when everything just flows, and running feels like flying. It’s a gift. And it reminds me to appreciate the joys in life, and to be grateful.

Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned from running is that it mirrors my faith life. The joy and exhilaration of a good run reminds me that God is good, and delights in us. The times of discomfort and disappointment remind me that spiritual growth takes work and commitment, a leaning in when I’d rather lean out. And when I look at the trajectory of my running life, with its stops and starts, and injuries; the goals I’ve reached, and the goals I’m still trying to reach, it reminds me that faith is a journey, and that God is faithful.

So I’ll be braving the waterfowl mafia on the pathways this spring. Maybe you will, too šŸ™‚

*to be fair, this was actually a post-triathlon photo. A triathlon that I did not properly train for. When you spend the first 20 minutes inhaling pool water, you know things probably aren’t going to get better for you.

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