Why do I run? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...wait, that's my high school A.P. English extra-credit assignment come back to haunt me (isn't it strange how something I memorized in 1991 can still be lurking in my mind but I can't even remember to bring in a check to pay my co-worker for the Weight Watchers cookbook she found for me at Sam's Club?).
No, the question is: why run when there are so many things that are so much easier to do?
Why do something that pushes my heart rate past 150 bpm when I can sit on the couch watching TV and expend no energy at all? Why be forced to don three or four layers of clothing, hat, and gloves, when I can be inside wearing jeans and a T-shirt? Why go outside on purpose in a frigid Michigan December when my house is warm and climate-controlled (though some might say that 63 degrees is a bit frosty...hey, natural gas is expensive and that's why God (or Malden Mills) invented synthetic fleece). Conversely, why go outside on purpose in a sweltering Michigan July when my house is cool and climate-controlled? Why sweat profusely when I hate being sweaty above all things and once again, sitting on the couch watching TV does not make me sweaty. Why pound away at my joints when I should be mindful of their aging status and how such pounding will affect me 20, 30 years in the future? Why spend oodles of money on attractive, tempting, soft, warm, fancy, 100% necessary-all-the-time running gear when my wallet can't handle the burden of an expensive passion?
Hold it right there, that's the key. Passion. This is my passion. At this point if I had to stop running it would be like asking me to stop breathing. It's that important, that vital. Running makes me feel alive. I can hear my heartbeats, feel cold air in my lungs, taste the sweat on my lips (damn, there's that sweat again...seriously, people, if you could have seen me after one of my summer runs you might have thought I had had a bucket of water dumped over my head). Oh, and then there's spitting, nose-blowing, phlegm-gargling, runner's trots, callouses, funky toenails, chafing, PVCs, tears pulled from my eyes by a biting headwind, chapped lips, side stitches, cold air-induced spastic coughing (does anyone else get that?), aches, pains, exhaustion. Yes, running certainly makes me feel alive!
I took the easy path through life for a long time. At the end of that road I weighed over 220 pounds and couldn't even go up the stairs in my house without getting winded. The couch was much more appealing than the outdoors. I considered the walk from my car to the front door of my workplace my daily exercise. I was alive, but I wasn't really living. I was just sort of...drifting along.
Running changed that. Running changed everything. Running has helped me shed almost 60 pounds of excess weight. Running has driven me to want to achieve things that were unthinkable a year ago, and, even better, actually do those things (half marathon, anyone? Sub-8:00 miles?). Running a half marathon successfully has made me want to do a full marathon. Running a sub-8:00 mile has made me want to run a sub-7:30 mile. Running has tempered my loathing of being outdoors in cold weather, unto itself a nearly unthinkable achievement. Running lets my mind wander freely onto any subject imaginable, for what else am I going to do for an hour when it's just me, the road, and the occasional bird in the bushes? Running begets running, too; the more I run, the more I find I want to run. I want to run farther, faster, stronger.
Yesterday as I neared the conclusion of my afternoon run, I crossed paths with my next-door neighbor who was out walking her dog. I paused to say hello and she commented that it certainly was cold to be out doing what I was doing. I replied that after nearly four miles, it didn't feel cold at all, I was as warm and toasty as could be and I was also wearing four layers of clothing (I really need to get one extremely warm outer layer, oh, would that be more expensive running gear, perhaps?). We parted ways and I continued onward, cold wind beating against my face. It was a beautiful day to be outside. It was a beautiful day to be alive.