Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Heart of a Runner

I am a runner. I never imagined that I'd ever really say that. But, here I am: a runner.

Early on Saturday morning I was out at about 6:30 running. It was the first really chilly day of running this season. I had prepared well. I had on a hat and running gloves. I wore my long-sleeved plumb colored compression running shirt. I was warm and on my way to a great seven-mile run. A mile or so into the run, I passed a runner going other direction. It was a relatively young guy wearing ALL the wrong things for cold weather running if you are a "real" runner. He was wearing a heavy hooded sweatshirt and warm up pants, no gloves and a baseball cap. He yelled hello from across the street and I smiled and called back. Runners are generally very cordial and always nod or smile, at the very least, to other runners (at least in my experience).

In that moment I had the great thought that ANYONE, {anyone} can be a runner. It's about having the heart of a runner. You don't have to have anything fancy or neat to just lace up and go. You dont' have to run fast or run far for it to have meaning. You can be any age, any skill level, any person at all.

So, what is the heart of runner? It means doing something because it makes you stronger. It pushes you to be a little better. It means that you do it because it makes you feel good inside and out. It means that you dig out that last stretch even when it doesn't feel like there is anything left to give. It means that you know that running gives you a place where you can calm your mind and put back into perspective those things that have gone askew. It is a place of sanity when so much around you feels a little insane and outside of your control. For me the heart of a runner is not necessarily about the constant push to be faster or find that competitive edge.

If anything, it might just be the opposite. I have a friend who picked up distance running about the same time I did. She's ultra fit and I love to talk runner with her. But running has become so important to her that it is starting to become more important than other important things and I've gradually started to see her make surprising life compromises. She's always looking for a race to run or a time to beat. Don't get me wrong. I would LOVE to be faster. And I love running races. But sometimes I feel a little like the guy wearing the over-sized grey hoodie. It's not about the time or the race. It's about balancing life with what you love and learning how to put first things first. That is the heart of a runner. Balance. We run to find balance and to make everything make sense and to be reminded that we can and are worth the effort.

I wasn't born with the heart of a runner. It's something that I've learned and developed. It's unlikely that I'll ever run fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In fact it is unlikely that I'll ever run a marathon. I'm a half marathon runner at my best. And I'm unlikely to run more than a couple of races a year. But I love running. Even on the days I don't feel like running and think I might hate running, I still love running.

So I guess maybe that is what gives me the heart of a runner. Instead of wearing my heart on my sleeve, I wear my heart in my shoes.


K-Krew said...

Loved this Chellae! Hope early morning seminary is going well!

mj said...

ditto. you said it all. i got in a phase a few years ago where i was only running to reach this one particular goal and i kept falling short. it was killing me. then one of my friends asked me why i ran - because to him, it sounded like i didn't enjoy it anymore. and he was right. so now, i run for me. not to beat anything, but just for me.

p.s. i signed up for the cape cod half, but apparently it sold out? so i'm on a wait list and i'm #45. seriously!?

Sunni said...

I have been running for the past 12 years (minus those last 3 months of pregnancy) and completely agree with you. Running has always been my form of therapy. I think there is nothing better than a Saturday morning with the sun shinning but a little bit of frost left on the grass and an hour and a half to go and explore the countryside. It is so idealistic and renewing.
I was thinking about you this morning as I was making the granola recipe you gave me over 3 years ago. Thanks for a great recipe I would love to catch up sometime.

zippy said...

Thank you Chellae, you give me hope. I've never enjoyed running...never, ever. This Fall I began "running" (if you can call it that, it's more like jogging) on our tread mill. Ever so slowly and not very often, but more often than ever before. It's still not my favorite thing to do, but I'm getting stronger and can handle going for longer stretches at a time. I just want to be healthier and happier. I hope I can turn this into a habit that I enjoy and someday wear my heart in my shoes rather than on my heart.

I too have friends like the one you mentioned, friends that have allowed running to become the ruling force in their life and they make choices that surprise me. I hope I can stay as balanced as I've always seen you manage to be.

Thanks again for this thoughtful/insightful post Challae. Happy running!