Life of a Runner: Why Run?

Hello my readers! I have another week for you here. It wasn’t the best week, but I’m improving, which is what matters.

Monday

OFF

Tuesday

1.3 miles, 10:09 (8:08/mile)

Today I was really angry. That is part of what pushed me out the door to go run. I was feeling so angry that I wanted to scream, so instead of doing that, I ran. I was planning to just go 1 but I went out a bit farther and also I didn’t want to commit to 2, so 1.3 is what I got. Also, a lady almost hit me with her car on my way back home, so that wasn’t great. But I did feel a bit better once I got home.

Wednesday

2 miles, 16:29 (8:15/mile)

I ran around the school this afternoon. It was pretty windy, so I did my normal loop around the parking lot and out on the road a bit. I didn’t finish on the track because of how windy it was and because they were doing track pictures. Today was actually a good day, and sometimes running right after school is the best option because I like to decompress on the drive home. A lot of times once I then get home, I just want to lay on the floor and relax because I just feel done for the day. By running while I’m still at work, it ticks one more thing off the list. And then I can lay on my floor once I get home. So it’s an absolute win!

Thursday

OFF

Friday

OFF

I took Thursday off because it was positively pouring outside. I took tonight off because I just felt sad and also because I am really nervous for tomorrow. My mom and I are doing the Red Shamrock trail race tomorrow and I am not ready for it at all. We’re also going to do a long run on Sunday, so it’s a big weekend. That’s why I don’t feel as bad about skipping the last two days.

Saturday

3.18 miles, 31:09 (9:48/mile)

I know we did the Garrison trail run a few weeks ago, but this felt like my first real race in over a year. Probably because there were a lot more people there and racing is something that is just hardwired into me at this point. However, I am doing racing a bit differently now. I will explain momentarily.

First of all, my mom and I went into this with low expectations for ourselves. It was a really wet course because of all the rain, which meant mud, which meant trail conditions were a bit on the treacherous side. But also, this is a trail race, and those are significantly harder than regular road races. I’ve mostly run on flat surfaces for the past 6 months, so I was nowhere near prepared for this. The race starts on a track, and we do about 300m on the track before going out onto the trails of Hickory Hills Park. We wore our masks at the start because of all the people, and I didn’t take mine off until we reached the trails, so by then I was sucking wind. Running with a mask on is hard, and I commend all high school and collegiate athletes who wore them in practice and at meets this past year.

As soon as the race started, I was filled with energy. There is a specific kind of energy you get when you start a race, and it feels like you’re full of energy and exhausted at the same time. I flew down the first hills and just felt alive. Anyway, once we were on the trails, the race got significantly harder. There are wooden steps put into the trail, which most people forewent for the smoother trail along the side, but I spent a bit of extra energy jumping the wooden steps. I’m not sure why, but it just made me feel powerful. And yeah, on the downhill I jumped the wooden steps like they were barriers to make myself smile. My first mile ended up being pretty fast at 8:15, but after that I dropped hard. There were times in the race when I wanted to cry and walk, but I did neither. Trail races are always humbling unless you actually train on trails, but this made me feel so horribly out of shape. Actually, at one point — in between sucking in breaths — I sighed and thought to myself, “Alright, it’s time to admit it. I have officially descended to the title of ‘Hobby Jogger’.” It was not pretty. The beginning was the only part that felt good, the rest just felt miserable.

A few things kept me from giving up and walking. One of them was something Brett said to me a little while ago. He told me that the unique thing about me is that I don’t quit. Whether I’m feeling bad about myself or I’m sore or tired, I don’t give up. I go out and run no matter if I will be fast or slow. I mean, first of all, that’s really flattering. Second of all, I wouldn’t say that I don’t quit; a lot of days, I don’t even start. But I did make up my mind a long time ago that I would try my hardest to not walk during a race. It was actually during my first middle school cross country race, and I saw a lot of people walking, and I thought to myself, “Why are they walking? This is a race!” It really confused me at first because my training up to that point had been to keep going. Even if you’re going close to walking speed, just keep going. I guess it’s stuck with me.

The other thing I was thinking of when I was considering walking the entire rest of the race was this guy I know named Josh. He is a really awesome runner who has done incredible things, but he also puts on a lot of races. I was thinking about the races he works so that everyone else can do it and have a great time, and I tried to think about why he would do something like that. It must be partially a love of running, but it is also a really selfless thing to do, because he himself cannot really run the races he puts on — he’s in charge of it and there’s a lot that goes into putting on a race. Recognizing that others have a love of running, and wanting them to experience that feeling and be able to compete and do their best, must be another part of it. And that just made me feel really grateful toward all the people who put on races and how selfless that is. So I kept going.

The finish came sooner than I expected. The race was supposed to be a 6k but they had the finish at a little over a 5k. They cut it short because we normally finish on the track the same way we started, but there was a track meet later today and they didn’t want the track muddy. So the finish was abrupt, but it was only half a mile short. That was enough for me anyway. I felt horrible at the finish, but only because I felt I did so poorly. That is what I meant by racing differently now. I felt horrible, which is just not really normal for me during a race, and I got passed by a lot of people, which is also not normal for me (I don’t mean to sound cocky there, it’s just the truth). After my mom finished and we both caught our breath, she told me to look at this as rock bottom. I think that’s a pretty good term for this, because today felt not great. At the same time, it did make me happy to do it.

Here’s Mum and I looking very enthusiastic after the race.

Sunday

5 miles, 43:25 (8:41/mile)

After the race yesterday, I ended up buying a car, and Mum came down to spend the night with me so we could do our long run tomorrow. We had planned on doing 10 miles, but it was clear when we woke up that was not going to happen for the following reasons: I woke up with a splitting headache (probably from dehydration), she woke up not feeling great, and we were both sore as hell. I mean, I could hobble from room-to-room, but it wasn’t great. So we debated for a couple of hours how far to go. And by debate, I mean sat in silence for a while before one of us asked the other, “So what do you want to do?” We also talked quite a bit about why we run and whether or not we like it, and identity. We pretty much came to the conclusion that we love running because of the long runs, basically. For me, that was what I looked forward to each week. For her, that was why she did trail races. To get out and do something like run for over an hour, to see some great scenery, to encounter things you might not on an ordinary day, and to feel the accomplishment at the end. That is why we like to run, especially long.

We did not do that today. But that is okay! What we did end up doing is going to the Kewash Nature Trail in Washington and running 5 miles. That is where our half marathon will be in three weeks, so it was nice to see what we’ll be running on. The trail is actually quite nice. The first mile and a half is paved, from where we started, and the rest is crushed limestone, I think. It was really windy on the way out, and there were a few hills, but actually the wind distracted me from how much my hips hurt. We were relatively quiet for most of the run. Once we turned around, it felt a lot better because we were out of the wind, but that also made me turn my attention to how much everything hurt. Sometimes I like the wind because it gives me something to push against that is not just myself and my own body. I don’t know, it makes sense in my head. It was cold with the wind but hot without, so I took my jacket off in the last two miles.

The worst part was the last mile. At that point, I wanted to be done. But we finished it out. We passed some people walking at the end, and I think that is the hardest I’ve ever been breathing around civilians. Most of the time, I keep myself composed around others, but not today. Today was a little bit rough, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be. It actually gave me some confidence! Apparently my mom and I had the same thoughts yesterday about being hobby joggers, which I thought was funny, but she said we don’t have to stay that way. We can get better if we just keep working at it, which is exactly what I plan on doing. I feel really good about today, now I need to keep it going. Also, the whole rest of the day I was hobbling. The hips, they do not lie.

I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but this has been a really tough point in life for me. Like I said last summer, part of training on my own is recognizing that no one cares what or how I do. The only person who cares is me, so I have to be enough motivation for myself. I have to remember why I run. I run because I love it. I love so many things about it, from getting wet and muddy to feeling sweat run down my arms and back. The long, winding roads to the tree-covered trails. The fantastic wins and PRs to the knee-collapsing finishes. The numbers in the books to the medals hanging on my wall. The deep breaths of fresh air to the lung-numbing breaths during the coldest days of winter. All of it are reasons why I choose to run, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Thanks for reading.

— Morgan

Teacher, Runner, Reader, and Writer. Destined for great things, I think.