why i run (part one)

why i run (part one)

“Running is basically an absurd pastime on which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning in the kind of running you have to do to stay on this team, chances are you’ll be able to find meaning in another absurd pastime: life.”

~ Bill Bowerman, Pre’s run coach

I wasn’t an athletic kid. I figure skated quasi-competitively four to five times a week, but I didn’t do much in the way of team sports. Except for the track team in grade 7: I remember signing up for the 10,000 metre race, not realizing that was 10 km. I was second from last. But I loved long jump and high jump: that feeling of flying (and then falling)… that feeling of propelling myself further and faster entirely by my own power. But running was something other people did.

Fast forward to my mid-20s and the movie Without Limits about long-distance runner and track star Steve Prefontaine. The kid who was told he was too small to be much of an athlete later became holder of every American distance running record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters. He was talented, sure, but he was also driven to win, or more pointedly, not to be defeated. There is a line in the movie credited to his coach Bill Bowerman: “The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limit of the human heart.” And Pre had guts.

That cracked me wide open.

My boss at the time was an Ironman athlete (triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, 112-mile (180.25 km) bike, and a 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run) and when he learned of my burgeoning interest in running, somehow he got me to sign up for the local 5km race. I don’t remember much about the race itself except thinking it was hard, until I crossed that finish line. And then I thought: if I could bottle this feeling, this euphoria, this accomplishment, imagine what else I could do?

I kept running and racing on and off over the years, but never trained seriously or consistently. Getting married, having kids, launching my freelance career, moving to a farm, then getting divorced took over my identity: I was a wife, mother, writer, farmer then single mother, but never a runner.

Then fast forward to December 2018 when I saw a meme: “A year from now you will have wish you started today.” I thought to myself, “What if I dedicate myself to training? What could that look like? How far could I go? How far could I run?”

Since I started this journey 18 months ago I have run over 3,000 km and I’m just getting warmed up. I have run in dozens of races, set and met time goals for myself, and I’m now training for my first ultra: a 50km trail race in October. (If it’s not cancelled due to COVID-19.)

I’ve become fascinated by the study of sport and endurance psychology, the science (and practice) of mind over matter. I’ve found community in runners and profound healing in nature.

But perhaps the biggest growth has been in what I’ve learned about myself, including my perception of my limits: every time I lace up my shoes, I defy the voices that scorn “who are you to think you can achieve these big goals?”

I’m a 46-year-old writer, single mother, and most definitely a runner.