Running Because I Can, And Not For Any Other Reason

After a much-needed lazy Sunday spent out of the city, I returned to my apartment with a new outlook on running. Yes, all it took was one day of not running after an accidental 12-mile stint to attain a slightly saner attitude about my recent mileage overload. And boy does it feel good.

Don’t get me wrong. Saturday’s run was unexpectedly great. It was sunny, it was warm, and above all, I actually felt good with every step I took (save for my tendinitis-ridden pointer toe, but that’s neither here nor there). As I looked back on the morning though, I began to realize more and more why I enjoyed my run so much, and that’s because I didn’t look at it as “training.” It definitely wasn’t part of any “plan.” Instead, I was able to get back to my running roots – the very reason I started running 6 years ago in college – and that’s to simply move my body, get a little fresh air, and remove myself from the pressures that reside within my apartment, at work, and in life in general.

While not nearly as aggressively as some, I have begun to put more weight on the significance of my runs in recent months. I got it in my head that I wanted to run a marathon, though I haven’t quite decided where or when (and this will likely not happen for some time). I got it in my head that I wanted to break some undetermined time during my upcoming D.C. 10-miler, though when you don’t train with a watch, it sounds a little silly. I got it in my head that I could run half marathon after half marathon after half marathon, though I’m not sure that’s what I really want.

So what do I want?

My new goal, starting now, is to remove these mentally exhausting thoughts, at least for the time being. Step one in maintaining this new attitude is not signing up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, although I had convinced myself over the last few weeks that I wanted to. For now, I need to remember this: I ran my first half marathon last August, and my second in January. Could I run the Brooklyn Half in May? Absolutely, especially since I’m pretty well trained for it right now. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I may have a lot of years of experience running under my belt, but I also have plenty more in me.

Monday morning, I was able to run about 5 miles before work. After spending a wonderful 10 miles in Central Park this weekend, I decided it’d be nice to explore different routes in my beloved urban backyard. I had been wanting to check out the East River path that starts at 59th Street and runs north, and so I ran up 3rd Avenue, weaving in and out of commuters, and then over to Sutton until I made it to the path.

The path itself is great for two reasons: It’s flat, and it’s on the water.

The views aren’t so bad either.

Besides that, however, I doubt I’ll be going back there any time soon, as long as I’m running before 10:00a.m. I guess I didn’t realize how quiet the path would be up there, since there are usually at least a handful of runners where the promenade continues south of 34th Street.

There’s nothing like a sense of fear to fuel you to speeds you’ve never thought you could muster, and after passing several people sleeping on benches (mom, you didn’t read that), I left the river around 77th Street, crossing the FDR until I was back in what I consider to be safer territory. About 20 minutes later, I was walking back into my apartment.

I may not have a half marathon to prepare for right now, but I actually started to embrace a new philosophy today while staring at the Brooklyn Half registration page. For the first time in, well, ever, I asked myself a question that I probably should have contemplated long ago: Why do I want to do this?

With Queens, my answer was easy. After running for 6 years, I wanted to see what I was made of. So I did. (It’s that same reasoning that’ll eventually inspire me to run a marathon.)

Then, after deciding how much I hated to train and run that race, I eventually – inevitably – got the itch; I wanted to run another one. So I did. That was the Manhattan Half Marathon, and it was an incredibly fun, challenging and confidence building experience. At that point, what’s a third race?

When it came down to registering for the Brooklyn Half Marathon though, I found that I couldn’t answer that question of “why” as I could with those other races. “Why do you want to run the Brooklyn Half?” I asked myself. Crickets. I was coming up blank. Not only that, but I was suddenly overcome with anxiety that, if I continued to run at this rate – given all my other social, personal and familial responsibilities – I’d grow to resent running for a while, which is the last thing I’d ever want.

Going forward, I think I need to contemplate this question more often. “Why?” If the answer isn’t “for me,” or for some awesome charity, then I’ll probably decide to opt out and to continue doing what I do best – and what I’ve done best for so many years now. And that’s to run, just because I can.

There will always be other half marathons.

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14 thoughts on “Running Because I Can, And Not For Any Other Reason

  1. I had a running epiphany recently that resulted in the same idea: why run for anyone or anything other than myself? It has completely changed the way I run, and my outlook on it. Glad you had a chance to experience that as well! 🙂 I hope it makes your runs that much more rewarding, as it has mine!

    • Does it last? Sometimes I feel like I could so easily revert. But I guess that’s just running: lots of emotional hills as well as physical ones.

  2. Oh, thank you for this! I originally registered for the CUCB 10 Miler because a friend of mine was like, “DO IT!” and it’s given me something to keep me running while in school. (Because I’m not at a point in my running where I can just pound out 10 miles of pavement.) But, as I’ve been pushing myself to make sure I can do the 14:00/mile time commitment, it’s been really stressful and I’ve not trained nearly as much as I would have liked. And I think what you wrote about here is part of that. Too much pressure, when a.) I’ve only been running 9-10 months, and b.) totally counter to why I started in the first place. (So, right now, my goal for Sunday? Finish. As I’ve been saying, come hell, high water, or last place finish, I will cross that line on my own two feet.)

    My partner and I have already signed up for a number of races this year (capping off with a half in October), but we’re putting any others on hold right now, because we worry about burn out.

    So, all of that to say THANK YOU for being honest about this with us, with yourself, and for sharing it. It’s super appreciated!

    • Thank you! That’s so sweet. That’s also one of my favorite parts about running: You’re really never alone in your thoughts, even when it feels that way. You are going to rock your races. Good luck, and remember, just do what feels right. (Though, as with anything challenging in life, a little push here and there never hurt!)

  3. I made myself hate running because I was A. “training” for some race. Whether it was a marathon, half marathon, relay, etc, it was something and B. I was always trying to beat my split times. Every few minutes I’d check my watch to see my pace and if it was slower than I wanted, I would push myself to pick it up–thus feeling wiped out and exhausted after each run.

    I took a week off to re-evaluate what I was doing. I was loathing going out for a run, which used to be the highlight of my day…I had to come to terms with what I REALLY wanted to accomplish, which was getting/staying fit, enjoying the Colorado mountain air and spending time with my boyfriend.

    Since said re-evaluation I’ve slowed waaaaaaay down, but have managed to add distance quicker than prior training programs. I look forward to runs and feel the long lasting effects of great runs, all day long!

    Congrats on your own epiphany!

    • That’s so great! It’s so important to re-evaluate sometimes. Glad you were able to come to the same, well, similar conclusion. Enjoy the mountain air!

  4. Very well said and your blog struck a chord. It occurs to me that it might be better to be in shape to run a half if you want to rather than training up to a half. I’ve been thinking about that a little bit lately and you really crystalized it for me!

  5. Great post! I recently found myself in the middle of a 10 mile race wondering what the hell I was doing there, in fact I think the words “What’s the point?” crossed my mind as I sank into the depths of uncomfortableness despite the slow pace. After a battle of a race and a couple of weeks of fatigue, I turned my intense training plan on its head to incorporate some runs that I would quite simply be doing to enjoy. I’m so much happier now! I still have my goal and I still push it, but not on every run. We need balance, right?!

    • Balance is so, so important. I mean, every now and then I love pushing my body to its limits. But I also love running for, you know…dumplings, donuts, candy, sample sales and just to be in nature. I give you so much credit though. It must be tough to finish a race when you’ve got training fatigue on the mind!

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