He looked strangely at me and said, “But you didn’t win?”.
“No, I didn’t win but I still did really awesome! So you can still say good job,” I tried to coax a compliment out of him.
“No because you didn’t win!” He was obviously disappointed.
So I lied. “Well I did win buddy! A lot of people won. We all won really! See, I even got this t-shirt!!” (Everyone got a t-shirt.)
That worked. His whole face brightened up and he smiled from ear to ear, “GOOD JOB MOMMY!!!”
Although he is 3, his understanding of running is the same as a lot of non-runners. They assume I run to win. Or assume that I at least must be good at it. The truth is I would never have a chance at winning any race I have ever run and I am really not all that good at it.
Once people realize this, they question, “Then why run?”.
Explaining why runners run, to people who do not run is hard. But I will try.
I run to be with people. I am an introvert. That doesn’t mean I don’t like people all the time, it just means I don’t like people most of the time. Running allows me to spend time with people, without ever having to say a word.
At the same time, when you spend that much time with a group of women, and share that many physical and emotional struggles, you bond. You can really get to know someone during a 20 mile training run. By the end of it you will know about the bowels of most the group, have heard most of their inner most secrets, and the reserved polite preacher's daughter is cussing like a sailor. A bond created among running friends is unlike any other.
I run to be alone. Sometimes you just need quiet. Sometimes you need to pray. Sometimes you need to reflect. And running can give you that better than anything. There is nothing that can ease the mind better than running yourself into physical exhaustion.
Running is better than driving, or a taking a bath, or going for a walk. When you need to, you can physically push yourself hard enough that even your mind quits thinking of anything other than running. There is nothing more effective at completely shutting down outside thoughts. And some days, as a mom, as a business professional, I need that.
I run to be a better than I was yesterday. I am nothing more than average (and usually below average) with my pace. That PR I set yesterday – it was a 1:55 half marathon (13.1 miles). That’s a respectable, but average time.
But for me, it was better than winning. It was a time at one point I never dreamed I could achieve. Running is about personal goals, personal victories and achieving distances, times and feats that are more than what you thought YOU could do. My mother in law, who is a Boston and New York Marathon Qualifier, is able to celebrate my victories like they are equal to hers. Because in this sport, no one is comparing a person to anyone other than the runner they were yesterday.
Look at a marathon like Chicago, where I crossed the finish line in 2014 with 45,000 other runners. Only a handful of those runners ran that race thinking about winning. The other 44,900 were running a race with themselves. To simply be better than the runner they were the day before -- whether that means simply crossing the finish line or it means running a sub 3:30.
Finally, I run because I like cake. A lot of people assume its first on the list for every runner. They picture us all as these stick thin, dieting health zealots who have to run out of an obsession for burning calories. I am none of those things.
I don’t count calories, I am not a size 2 and I don’t obsess over my weight. I do however, like cake. And cookies. And hot wings and beer (which is exactly what we celebrated with yesterday)!!
And I feel a whole lot better about stuffing my face in a crowded room, if I can turn to the person staring at my plate piled high with my second serving and say “Its fine. I run marathons”.