Why I Run – by Kim O’Leary
I started running 18 months ago after giving birth to my second (and last) child. The reasons were unremarkable: I wanted to reclaim my body and carve out a little “me” time. Running was the cheapest, most accessible, and most effective form of exercise available to me – so I decided to give it a shot.
Never one to indulge in heavy exercise – years ago I had a brief love affair with a Nordic Track, and enjoyed leisurely walks and easy hikes with my family – I instantly found running to be humbling as hell! My first “run” was a 10 minute walk punctuated by bursts of sweaty, panting jogging – and a horrible, lingering stitch in my side. Thinking of my sister and husband – both effortless, graceful runners – made me want to give up that day.
But, I didn’t.
All through last spring and summer, I kept at it. As soon as I was able to cover that 10 minute route without stopping to walk, I pushed myself further. At the urging of a friend, I signed up for a 5K race in the fall. As I pulled into the parking lot and observed the lithe, fit forms of the runners all around me, I experienced a moment of panic and turning to my husband said, “No way I can do this – look at all those REAL runners!” He brushed off my self-critique and I took a deep breath. And, I ran. I finished the whole 3.1 miles without stopping, and – gasp – I felt like I could have kept going at the end!
Something clicked in me that day. My hate-hate relationship with running turned into a love-hate relationship. Yes, I still found running to be hard, sometimes painful work. But I was getting something out of it – my body had bounced back from pregnancy in a way that I could live with, I got some relief from my kids, husband, career and the general free-floating sense of anxiety that fills my days, and I felt like I was accomplishing something. I don’t always want to drag myself out of bed or off the couch – but I have never, ever regretted getting out for a run.
I kept up my running through the long, lonely winter (thanks to Yak Trax!), participated as part of a relay team for the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon this spring, and this summer ran my first 10K race with my sister (the “real” runner in the family). I try to get out for runs about three days a week. I’m flirting with the idea of doing a half marathon next year, and maybe, somewhere in the distance – a full marathon. What an achievement that would be!
I think when I love running the most – what keeps me running – is that moment which comes at some point in every run where I step outside myself. I listen to my feet pounding the pavement, hear my steady breath, feel my muscles burning – and think with gratitude: “I’m here. I’m really doing this.” And I’m going to keep doing it, for as long as my body allows me to do so.