You know, I had to think about it. I had to think about it because it's just something I enjoy. Something that puts a smile on my face. Of course it also makes me sweat and cringe but it's the smile at the end that make me go back for more.
I am by no means a fantastic runner. I don't have the svelt and sleek body of a runner. What I do have is heart.
Running is in my heart and it makes me happy. There's something about going outside and putting one foot in front of the other and challenging myself. When I return home I have a smile on my face because I accomplished something. It doesn't matter that it was a training run or a race, or even my worst race on the hottest day. I went out and did something and finished.
It's the time I get to spend with myself that allows me to clear my head. I listen to music and forget about the work day or the day's frustrations.
If I'm in a race, I'm not in a race against the other runners, I'm in the race against myself. Can I take the monster hill that I know is ahead of me? Can I beat my best time and set a personal record?
Running is time for me. Even if there are five thousand other runners around me, I'm still there by myself.
It's a sport that is physically challenging and even more so mentally challenging. When the legs and lungs give out, it's the heart that keeps me going. The heart to trudge through the pain and exhaustion and push myself to that next burst of energy. The heart to say, "I'm going to do this," and make it to the finish line.
I've only been running for about 2 years and each year I challenge myself more. Last year I wanted to run a half marathon. I had barely trained when I did my first one in February and I admit I was not ready as my body will atest since it took me six weeks to recuperate. But you know what? I did it. By the time I got to that last mile I was smiling and gritting my teeth, but it's the grin that won out. When I got to the last quarter mile with my butt hanging and my feet crying, another runner came up beside me and said, "Come on, you've got this. Let's run the rest of the way." Inside, I thought the woman was nuts and I cringed, but for some unknown reason my heart took over and got my feet moving. I did it! I finished and under the time I wanted. Good for me. Good for anyone who finished!
Oh, it wasn't a pretty run, but you know what I can say, "I did it." And when I did the next half marathon, after having trained a little more, I did better. With each race I improve. It may be by only a second or it may be by ten minutes, but either way it's great. Because I got on that road, that dirt trail, or that monster hill and I finished.
This year, I am still running and still improving. Last weekend was the first time I actually ran the entire 5K. That was a ginormous feat for me. Since I started this new adventure of running I have only been able to run/walk so to be able to run the entire time was not only a huge day for me, it was that fact that I did it on a trail run, which I have never done before. It was the fact that I did it for a race that benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project that made it sweet success.
It's my heart that makes me a runner. Not my legs. It's the determination that my heart gives me to find a challenge and go after it. And to finish it.
This year, my big challenge is to complete the Marine Corps Marathon. I can honsetly say that I am scared witless. Not because I don't think I can finish 26.2 miles (Yikes!), because all I have to do is tell myself I'm going to finish and I will. Nope, I'm scared because I have to be at mile 20 by a certain time or the Marines pick you up, put you in a van and move you ahead in the race and then drop you back off to finish. That is NOT what I want to happen. I want to hit mile 20 on my own and on time.
Mile 20 is my challenge. Twenty miles in four hours and thirty minutes. I've got to maintain about a 13 minute per mile pace. Right now in my half marathons, I am at about a 14 minute pace. I have to improve by a minute a mile. Can I do it?
I guess time will tell, but if heart and determination have any influence in it then I say the answer is YES.