In fact, you might find it hard to believe that I hated running at one point in my life. Those years are well behind me, but from junior high through high school, I despised the sport. At that time in my life I would not even have called it a sport back then – I think it would have been more aptly named “a special form of torture” forced upon students in the off-season in junior high and on days when my softball coach felt we deserved to be punished for bad throws or poor hitting practice in high school. Of course, in those days it was also a bit of sore spot for me, since I was told I was a bit slow – when running the bases, at what felt like high-speed to me, my coach would say to me after crossing home plate, “Well, Cribbs that looked like slow motion – just glad you made it.” (I promptly realized that in situations that might require more speed, it was best to use my height and slide to the base to ensure I made it.)
Something clicked after high school. I suppose it was that I really needed to find a way to be and stay active – P.E. class isn’t a requirement in college. So, after several failed attempts at actually using the gym membership I was paying for, I decided to join one of my friends on her weekly runs. She had been a much better softball player and all-around athlete than me, so I figured she could help motivate me. And it worked. I enjoyed the route and the workout so much that I would run on my own on the days when our schedules conflicted. When we would meet for our runs, I could keep pace with her and eventually, I had some days when I could out pace her. It was healthy competition and I felt good about the “sport.”
I maintained a love-hate relationship with running until I completed my course work at the junior college and went off to a university, which offered me access to a stadium and plenty of hills to really challenge my body. I fell madly in love with running at that point because, let me tell you, nothing will get you in shape faster than running stadiums. Running morning after morning alone in the silence – up and down, up and down, up and down the steps – it was like meditation. If I was angry or sad or happy – I let all my emotions out in that run or simply thought through my problems. Running became so much more than a form of physical activity, it was like really cheap (and highly beneficial) therapy!
Graduation and “adulthood” altered my love of running. I fell out of love with running…. Well, actually I longed for the days when I could run in the peace and quiet of the stadium with my biggest worries being whether or not I got an “A” on my mid-terms, rather than paying bills and finding steady work. Gosh, I miss college….
Here it is though, almost 15 years after I embraced running as a sport, and I do it almost everyday. I still miss the stadiums, but I have found ways around it. The invention of the iPod and Nike+ have done the most for me. In 2008, I got an iPod nano, a Nike+ transmitter, sensor and the appropriate footwear. I joined challenges and set goals. I ran because I didn’t want to lose – even if I was only competing against myself in cyberspace – the thrill of competition was back! Tracking my runs and being able to tune out all the noise around me with the iPod – made all the difference – even if I wasn’t running stadiums.
This morning, when I went running before the sun came up, I thought about my journey to becoming a runner and why it is that I run. Yeah, I still get a thrill out of Nike+ and tracking my progress and I definitely have to exercise regularly because, well, I’m not getting any younger. But, really I choose running over any other sport because a) I’ve got no rhythm at all – so, running doesn’t require much coordination (you should see me try a kickboxing class – it’s embarrassing!); b) It’s free – no matter where I live, and I relocate often, I can walk out my front door and find some great running routes; and c) it is pure meditation – especially at 6am when no one is on the road or the sidewalks and the sun is only thinking about peeking over the ocean’s edge. I feel free from everything for those 30 to 45 minutes and, I’ll tell you – I HATE waking up early, but after my run, I have forgotten all about the blaring alarm clock and I have a better day at work.
Is there an activity that makes the world fade away for you? Or maybe you walk, run, swim, cycle or rollerblade simply for better health or weight loss or you just gotta get out of the house…. whatever it is that you do, I would like to hear your story. Whether you just started your activity or it has been a lifelong “love affair” or a love-hate journey like mine – tell me in the comments below: Why do you…..run or walk or swim or cycle or box or do Yoga, etc.?