Why Do I Run?

In September 2016 I ran my first 5K. It’s now December 2016 and I’ve lost count of how many I’ve run. For some reason, I’ve really connected with running these past few months. I have never been a runner (except for a short time in college when I took a running class one semester), so this has all been rather surprising. I’ve seen this addition to my life as a gift – the right element at the right time.

The other day, someone said to me, “You’ve been through so much change lately with a new job, new home, new church – and now running. Is this kind of a way to distract yourself?” What a great question! It got me thinking of the reasons why I run…

  1. I tend to stay in my head most of the time, so running helps me become more aware of my body – to actually feel my limbs, my back, my hands, my feet.
  2. It’s showing me that I’m stronger than I think. So much of running is mental. If I speak self-defeating words to myself, running is harder and more painful. If I speak encouraging words to myself, running is much more fun and I can go farther. That awareness is overlapping into other areas of my life.
  3. It feels great to be active – especially in the winter when I usually struggle mightily with depression
  4. I’m encountering a thriving community of runners for the first time. They are enthusiastic and connected. 
  5. I’ve been able to see so much more of my community by signing up for 5Ks all over the Chicago suburbs.
  6. Running as been a great stress reliever and I sleep better at night.
  7. I  can use my running time to listen to audio books. I don’t have other time in my days to listen to audio books or podcasts, so it’s like “bonus” time.
  8. I’m feeling strong and I can see my progress as I continue to run.
  9. I love having a hobby that is improving my mental and physical health.
  10. It’s been fun to compete at 5Ks (who knew I was so competitive?!). It’s helping me to stay motivated and keep running and improving.
  11. It’s been fun to see different 5Ks – big and small – and the various things that event organizers have done to make them unique.
  12. Even though I don’t really do fundraising for these 5Ks, each one raises awareness and funds for excellent organizations. I usually feel like an “outsider” looking in on a strong community, unified by a great cause. So inspiring!
  13. I know that some people use their running time as an opportunity to pray. While I don’t specifically pray while I run, I regularly feel great gratitude to God for the ability to run and the gift it has been to me.

It’s still amazing to me that I’m running for the first time at age 42. I know it isn’t for everyone, but I guess it’s never too late to experience something new. It can enliven the mind, body, and spirit.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Running in Front of Trucks

When I was about 7, I lived to spend time with my best friend, Leatha. (Yes, “Leatha”, not “Lisa” – everyone asked.) Summer days with her were the best days. We imagined we were sisters – both of us tanned by long days spent in the sun, both with long brown hair and brown eyes, and quick smiles and laughter.

One afternoon, our moms were talking inside the house while Leatha and I played outside. Her family lived out in the country, like me. We were used to safely roaming around by ourselves in fields and yards. I remember feeling so happy, enjoying the summer day, and imaginative play with my friend. In my happiness, I spun around and darted across the road.

I immediately heard screams. “NO!” “LORI!” Confused, I looked up and I saw the grill of a semi truck and looked up a bit more and saw the face of the man driving. I ran as fast as my legs could take me and collapsed on the other side of the road. I sat in the grass for a bit, trembling at how close I came to getting hit. I thought, “I could have died.” I felt ashamed, embarrassed that I hadn’t looked before crossing the street. I knew better!

Leatha crossed the street to be with me and it felt too disjointed to play again after that, so we went inside the house.

Still feeling shaken, I found my mom. She was sitting with a glass of ice tea in her hand, chatting. I leaned up against her and said, “I did something wrong.” She calmly said, “Yes, I thought you’d died or something.” I was confused. She was so nonchalant. If she was concerned, why hadn’t she come out to find me? Why didn’t she punish me? Why wasn’t she alarmed? (By the way, my mom doesn’t remember this event at all, so I can only go by my memory.)

Even though I didn’t talk about this event again or think much about it, it has been a core memory for me. While my friend yelled her warning to me and obviously cared, I internalized the message that the adults did not care and that was puzzling to 7-year old me. The driver kept going and he didn’t seem to slow down when he saw me. Our moms didn’t seem concerned at all. Perhaps I shouldn’t believe this near-accident was a big deal and maybe I might not matter.

It wasn’t until 20 or so years later that I realized that I’ve been carrying around this false message of “I don’t matter.” It wasn’t until a counselor suggested that I take a look at some childhood memories from the perspective of Adult Me that I could imagine this event differently and speak clarifying truth to myself. Maybe the truck driver slammed on his brakes. Maybe he thought about stopping to tell me to stay out of the road, but decided to keep going when he saw I was safe. Maybe my mom was used to hearing kids yelling outside, but was concerned and got up right away to make sure I was okay. Maybe when she saw I was okay and went back to her needed adult conversation. Of course she loves me and cared about me. Time and life had proven that over and over.

It’s interesting to look at these core childhood memories and examine what messages we’re carrying into adulthood. Are you holding onto some misinformation from childhood?  What might the truth be as you look at it as an adult?