I believe in running. Whether practicing with a team, racing the 3200, or simply lacing up for an easy jog around the neighborhood, running is an outlet in my life for frustration, sadness, joy, and everything in between. I am no star runner – I don’t hold any school records, I’m not a captain on the team, and I certainly couldn’t go out and run ten miles without thinking twice about it – but that’s not what running is about for me. Sure, records and marathons are great, but right now I’m enjoying the feelings that come from a simple run on my own.
After training hard as a member of the track team for three years, I certainly would have expected more from my running career than what it currently is. Thanks to numerous setbacks, including an inflamed growth plate and a spinal stress fracture, I was forbidden to run for several months so my body could heal. I idealized running during these months, forgot the pain and exhaustion that came with it, and wished I was healthy enough to run on my own, like all the other runners I saw around town. All I wanted to do was put on my running shoes, get rid of my back brace, and sprint down the street – but I couldn’t. The ability to run became my ultimate goal and a symbol of health.
Now that I can run again, I don’t envy those other runners. I am, however, determined to appreciate every step I take on my runs. Sometimes it’s hot, or my shins hurt, or my legs just don’t want to move fast enough. To cope, I remember how constricting my back brace was, or how much I missed even being able to go for an easy walk.
I believe that running, although it has caused my injuries, is also my healer. The pure, physical exhaustion is so satisfying that I want to feel it as much as possible. Running forces me to look inward every time and look for the drive to keep going up the next hill. When I run along a familiar route, I can forget about the trivial, petty things that hardly warrant my concern. The steady rhythm of breathing and my shoes on the streets fills me with a sense that I am doing something that is good for me, both mentally and physically.
Everyone says that you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s too late, and cliché though the statement is, it’s true. I never missed running until I was too hurt to do it. Thankfully though, it’s not too late for me. Now that I’m free to run again, every run feels like an accomplishment, because I don’t have to go out there and do it, but I do anyway. I choose to take advantage of my renewed health, and I can run about four or five miles now. I’m able to get over the setbacks – my stress fracture, the heat, the cramps, and the shin splints – and I run to make myself happy. That’s the kind of running that I believe in.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.