Talk about something I never thought I'd say. And this is the story of how running became part of my identity.
I was a totally unathletic kid. Team sports still baffle me (as a player, at least, although I now quite enjoy being a spectator at team events). I had never worked out regularly in my life until I moved to Boston at the age of 27 and my best friend joined the Y and I thought, "Why not?" and I joined, too.
I wouldn't say that joining the Y got me hooked on exercising. I am, quite simply, a creature of habit who is prone to guilt, and once I regularly started doing something that I knew was good for me, I would feel guilty for not going. I'm also competitive, and athletic pursuits are perfect for pushing oneself harder. You can always be faster, work out for longer, try something new. I never loved going to the gym—still don't—but I'm supposed to and I beat myself up if I don't and so there you have it.
Yes, there is an element of this that is obsessive and mentally unhealthy. Sssssh, la la la, I don't hear you.
After a few years of doing classes, machines, and weights at the Y, I was getting bored. Really bored. The idea of getting on an elliptical machine made me want to fork myself in the eyes. The one cardio pursuit I had yet to try was running. The treadmill was my kryptonite. I abhored the very idea of running.
I also abhored the idea of forking out my own eyes.
So I got on the damn treadmill already, and I started to run. I still didn't love it, but I did love the goal-oriented nature of it and the stats I could gather. I could be motivated by time or distance, or a combination of the two. I started running outside, and appreciated the efficiency of getting in a workout without going to the gym. I loved what running did to my body; it's certainly the most effective whole-body workout I've found to date.
I wish I could tell you that I loved the "runner's high," but at that point, I found that I rarely experienced that. I was proud of what my body could do and I got the endorphin-rich feeling that any workout brought me, but I didn't find running to be different in that respect.
Back in the day, which was prekids and precancer, I ran 25 to 30 miles a week and was training for a half marathon. Then John got sick and my life changed and I never got back to running that much, then I had the twins and then and then and then.
But I've been slowly easing back into it since Maddie and Riley were born. I was running two to three times a week when we lived in Boston, either with them in the jog stroller after work or with a friend before work when we lived with CV and I could run before the kids got up for the day. Then when I got to Portland, I found that many of my coworkers at Reed were runners, and I started running with them at lunch. I've been back to regular running for almost a year now, although my mileage is not what it was lo so many years ago. Now I do 12 or so miles total over three to four weekly runs.
While I may not be doing as much running as I used to, what I get out of running is now different. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still goal-oriented—I've got a half-marathon in my sights and I've been working towards my prekids pace for a while now—but I find that I need to run in a way I didn't before. I still don't get the high, but I definitely get a lot of stress relief and improved energy. And while I prefer to run with company, I end up doing a fair amount of solo workouts, which give me a lot of time to think and work through things. I used to have a lot of a-ha! moments in the shower; now I have them while logging miles. I notice a huge negative swing in my attitude and general demeanor when I don't get out a few times a week. Most days now I actively crave getting out for a run, and even on the days I lack the desire, I'm never sorry I went.
And so it came to pass, another one of the unimagined things that has become a part of my life, another thing for which I am grateful.