I am often asked by non-runners, “Why do you Run?” You would think this is a fairly simple question to answer. But, for me, this is a much harder question to answer then I thought it would be. Quick answers come to mind when I am asked this, like to lose weight or I enjoy it. These quick answers are not the real reason I run. They are indeed part of the reason I run. However, the reason I run is so much more. Maybe the best way to start is by telling who I was before I was a runner, then who I have become since I started running.
I was a person who’s life was out of control. Through a serious bad decisions, unfortunate life circumstances and unhealthy relationship, I became a person with an addiction. I was also a person that used other people for my needs. I started to suffer from depression and didn’t care about myself. I also become obscenely overweight. My life was out of control. Everyone that I had relationships with saw it. But I didn’t see it, or maybe I didn’t care. Everyone told me my life was out of control, but I didn’t listen. It took the rock bottom moment, the near wrecking of my marriage and family relationships, losing a great job and the birth of my daughter to realize what I had done to myself. I knew that I needed to get control back.
This is when running entered my life. I had no control in anyway in my life, but I could control running. I could, no matter what else was out of my control, go run a mile, 0r 2, or 10. I had control over when, where and how I would run. When I was running I could focus my thoughts, I could mediate on the run. I could draw strength on the rhythm of my feet, the observation of nature, the alertness to my surroundings.
Learning how to control running allowed me to transfer that control to the places in my life that were out of control. First and foremost that control had to be put on my addiction. There is no way to correct any other problems in your life when a serious addiction is present. Addictions are powerful, they color your thoughts and motives. Breaking free from them is a hard task for anyone, and some never do. Just saying I’m not going to do this any more doesn’t cure someone. It’s a goal, but it takes a journey to reach the goal. Much like when I would go on a run, just because I say I’m running 26.2 miles doesn’t mean I am. It takes many steps to complete the journey. Each step in that run has to be intentional. Each step has to be giving your full commitment. Each step has to be taken with a full awareness of where you are placing your foot. Each step has to be taken, you can skip a single step. It was this comprehension of running that allowed me to fight my addiction in the here and now, not the long term goal that would have been unattainable. Every thought, every intention, every action had to be viewed like a single step in my run. Each one had to be done on purpose and going in the right direction. Fighting the battle against each little step was much easier than fighting the whole war against my addiction.
As the little steps were taken and the run in front of me to beat my addiction became shorter, I was able to start taking on the steps on other runs I had been failing at. I took the small steps to the end of the run that saved my marriage. I took the small steps that to the end of the run that led me to be a good father. I took the small steps to the end of the run that led me back to college and to graduate with honors. I took the small steps to the end of the run that led back to being employed. I took the small steps to the end of the run to beat my depression. I took the small steps to the end of the run to overcome my addiction. But even in all of these victorious runs, I had one journey that I was refusing to take. At times, even refusing to acknowledge.
Did you know that it’s possible to be an unhealthy runner? I know it because that is what I was. I finished two different marathons while weighing over 265lbs.
While I was taking all these small steps in other runs in my life, I ignored one glaring problem I still had. I was still basically in an addiction with food. It was easy to justify. I needed food to live. I needed extra food because of all my running. But in reality I was using a food addiction in just the same way as my other addiction, to self medicate against hurt. Yet the reality of it was that the food addiction was causing me to hurt. When I finally made this realization, I started taking the steps to end of the run to break my food addiction and be at a healthy weight. I am still on that run, but the there is less road in front me now than there is behind me. I have gone from weight of 287lbs to a weight of 173lbs. It is a marathon of a run, but I have finally made it to mile 25. I am so close to the end that nothing can keep me from crossing the finish line.
So the next someone ask you, “Why do you run?” Take a minute to really examine your answer. Think of how running has changed you. Think of the impact in has made on your life circumstances. Running has made you a different person that you would be had you not taken that first step.
By the way, why do you run?
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