Why I Run*

* and why I race.

Recently, within the span of about a week, my dad and a colleague asked me simple, yet difficult to answer, questions:  why do you run? why do you race?  The short answer is "because I love it." But I have thought about those questions since they were asked of me, and I think a post on the answers might be a good thing.  Running and racing are two totally different things in my mind.  


Running is my soul sport.  Don't get me wrong, I love triathlon.  But if I have an hour of free time and could choose any exercise out there, I will always choose a run.  I really like to swim. I kind of like to bike.  But running fulfills me in a way that no other sport does.  There is something about moving my legs and literally pounding the pavement that makes me feel amazing.  Even a bad run is actually a good run.

I run for therapy.

When I am stressed or sad or angry or overwhelmed, the first thing I want to do is run.  I need the outlet.  I think turning to a run versus a vice is a pretty good choice.  I do some of my best thinking and soul searching on my runs.  I'm able to solve problems, think things through and let all the "stuff" in my life fall away and focus only on myself.  When I am running, it's just me.  I can think about whatever I want.  I can be whatever I want.  It is both an escape and a way to center my focus.  When a runner friend is injured and cannot run, I completely understand the agony that the person feels when she is told she cannot run.  If running is your soul sport, nothing can replace it.

I run to eat.

Let's be real: running is a great way to get and stay in shape.  It burns a ton of calories.  And thank goodness for that, because I have the appetite of a horse.  I run so that I can eat whatever I want.  One of my favorite things to do after a long run or a race is to check out my Garmin and see how many calories I've burned and translate that to the meal I'm about to have: mmm, I burned 2000 calories! So that's a huge meal and at least two Hop Devils.  

I run because I can.

I am thankful that I am able to run.  I am healthy and have very little issues that prevent me from running or doing any other sport.  I have seen stunning sunrises and gorgeous sunsets on runs.  I have seen hot air balloons in the sky.  I have run in the falling snow on a snowy path with nothing but silence around me.  I've run in the Fall when the trees are on fire with red, yellow and orange leaves.   I've run super close to deer, fox, turtles and snakes.  I've run in the rain, the fog and the wind.  I've run in the heat and the bitter cold.  And there are those days - those perfect weather days  - where I don't want the run to end.  I run when I travel.  I have been able to experience so much of the world around me simply by going out for a run.


If running is all about the zen of life, then racing is all about the zest.  As much as I need to run, I also need to race.  I think racing may be harder for people to understand because I'm not a professional and I will never ever win a race.  But, nothing can replicate that feeling surrounding a race: the adrenaline, the excitement, the competitive vibe.  I also love that feeling of everyone around me who is racing his or her own race with his or her own goals ... all heading toward that exact same finish line.  

I race for the challenge.

I am Type A by nature (no!), so a race appeals to my nature.  I am always up for a challenge and competition, and I am always challenging myself.  I set time goals for almost every race I do, and if I don't make them, I try again.  It took me years to run a sub-2 hour half marathon.  I am still working on running a sub-4 hour marathon.  When I make that goal, I'll try to quality for the Boston Marathon.  There is always a new time goal to beat.  You can always try to beat your last best time.

I race for vindication.

Ok that sounds a little scary.  Talk about the opposite of zen.  I don't mean to invite bad karma, but there is a part of me that races as a way to show myself and others in my past that I am an athlete.  I played field hockey in high school and I loved it.  The coach, unfortunately, was awful.  An awful, mean, negative and overly critical person who should not have been allowed to coach teenage girls.  But she was a winning coach, so her behavior was overlooked.  She had her favorites, and everyone knew who they were.  I remember the last year I played hockey, I was not a favorite, and during a practice scrimmage, she had the favorites scrimmage with the other part of the team.  She kept referring to the favorites as "our team" -- "our ball!" or "ok, our turn to take the hit", and I remember thinking, we are all on the same team!  She made those of us who were not the chosen ones feel like non-athletes -- I chose my words carefully there.  It wasn't that I felt that way: she made us feel that way.  So when I cross a finish line or meet a goal, it is one way I say to myself -- both the 37 year old me and the 17 year old me who still lives deep down inside -- "you are an athlete."  

I race because it makes me believe things about myself that I never thought possible.  

This is the overwhelming reason that I race:  it makes me believe that I can do anything.  I never thought I could run as fast as I do on a consistent basis now.  I never thought I could get an age group award in a triathlon.  I never thought I could even do a triathlon.  I never thought I could do an olympic triathlon.  I never thought I could do a half ironman triathlon.  By pushing the limits of what I thought possible, I learn that really, truly ... I can do it and that sport (any sport) is part physical but mostly mental.  During every single race that I do, there is a point where pain is greater than enjoyment and I have to push through the pain.  That moment -- that moment where the pain is overwhelming and I have every reason to quit but don't -- that makes me feel alive and shows me that truly, this body and mind of mine are a team and can do anything I set out to do.  It may not be easy (it isn't) and it may take time (it will), but perseverance and belief in myself will get me there.  Racing changes the conversation from "why?" to "why not?"

I often think back to when I started running.  I remember it vividly: it was the Summer after my freshman year of college.  I was home and decided to try running.  I would run a bit, then walk a bit, then run, then walk.  This was in 1995 and there were no fancy GPS watches.  So I drove my route with my orange-red 1986 manual transmission Ford Escort and figured out where the one-mile mark was. My goal for that summer was to get up to 3 miles total.  I remember the day I ran a mile without stopping.  I felt like a rockstar.  I remember the day I ran 3 miles total.  I felt like a bigger rockstar.  I remember the first 5K I raced.  I felt like a rockstar.  I remember the first five miler ... the first 10K ... the first half marathon ... the first marathon ... I felt like a rockstar.  Life is too short and there is too much bullsh*t surrounding us to not feel like a rockstar any chance we get.

Running and racing are the Jerry McGuire of my life: they complete me.   I saw a sign at the Philly Rock and Roll Half Marathon that said, "one day you will not be able to do this.  Today is not that day."  That is something that goes through my mind every single time I run or race:  I owe it to my 80 year old self to run and race every single chance I get.  Because my 80 year old self will still be running and racing ... she'll just be a bit slower :).   In the meantime, I am thankful for every start, every finish line and every mile in between.  The Earth doesn't stand still ... and nor shall I. 

See you swoon,


  1. Thank you so much for this post. I have been following your blog for a long time and have been wildly impressed by your racing! I am doing my first half marathon in a few weeks and have psyched myself out a bit. Hearing that it took you years to get to the level you're at now makes reassures me that I can do this. Thank you!

    1. Best of luck in your race!! Please email me and let me know how it went! In fact, email me if you want to talk running and swap stories. :)