Anyone who runs long distances has had some sort of cringe worthy confrontation with a non-running relative, friend, co-worker, etc. My favorites are the timeless classics “You’re going to ruin your knees” or “I don’t even like driving that far.” I’m not sure what it is about running that solicits so much unsolicited “advice” or commentary. My most recent interaction (from basically a stranger) included this nugget — “What are you running from?” Poor grammar aside, this actually got me thinking. Are we as runners actually running from something or are we, in fact, running towards something? Running can definitely be a great escape from the monotony of the real world or stresses from work/home, but I don’t think running away from things is the only reason we run. If we were all simply looking for an escape, there are a lot easier ways to find one. I’m not saying that we don’t all have our individual demons that a good run in the woods can’t help, (Lord knows I have my share) but I think, for the most part, we’re running for something, towards something, searching for something.
Running (and by running, I personally mean trail running. I’m sure the road can make others feel the same) isn’t just an outlet. It’s not just a way to unwind from the day or to start my day off right. I run to find the best version of myself possible–the version of me who is strong enough mentally and physically to endure what others can’t. I run to see just what my body is capable of doing. I run with a community that is beyond amazing, a community that has made me feel like I finally found my place in life, a community that I honestly can’t imagine my life without. Running and the running community show me who I want to be.
Much to my parents’ chagrin, I’ve never known exactly what or who I wanted to be (sadly, this is true even 4 years post-law school), but that has been changing since I became so deeply involved with running. I want to be a runner/I am a runner. Running is what I want to do, running is how I want to be defined. When people ask “what do you do”, I want to respond “I run”. Clearly, I’m not saying I am or ever will be Frosty or Jenn Shelton or Sally McRae, but that’s what I’m running towards (if nothing else, at least in my mind). In the meantime, I’ll also be running towards bettering myself both as a person and a runner, towards unbelievable adventures that can only occur in the mountains and woods, towards the communion with nature, towards a community that welcomes any and everyone with open arms, towards the pain that helps me grow, towards the exaltation that keeps me coming back for more, towards the love and passion that intensifies every day for this sport, and definitely towards the “what now” or the “what else can I do?”