Running and I have had a long and fairly healthy relationship. We've broken up a number of times, mostly over injury, but we just can’t quit each other. Now that we’re in a good place, it seems appropriate for Valentine’s Day to list 14 reasons I still love running.
- Incredible sunrises. I was an early morning runner by necessity, and now by choice. It’s dark when I start, but by the last mile of my weekday runs I’m met with blistering pink and orange skies and the Rockies in shadow.
- Time. I run to get away and have a few quiet moments to myself before the chaos of the day begins. No music. Just feet pounding. It’s bliss.
- Patience. Running requires patience. You don’t get fast overnight. Legs don’t get stronger in a day. Long runs are, well, long. I’ve learned to be patient with my body and the changes that happen.
- Travel. Running has given me reasons to see places I’d never seen before. Whether it was running a relay race through Napa Valley or a marathon in Amsterdam, there’s nothing better than getting familiar with a city on foot.
- Perspective. Bad runs stink. Injuries are the pits. But it’s not the end of the world. Getting older and slowing down isn’t the worst that can happen. Sitting out a race due to injury isn’t the end of the world. Tomorrow is another day. Another chance to be better.
- Better understanding of my own body. I know more about my body now that I run. At times I’m forced to research and learn about myself due to injury. Sometimes I’m seeking to progress. Either way, I’ve become more in tune with my body and its needs.
- Sleep. I used to struggle with insomnia. At one point in my early 20s I went three weeks sleeping no more than two-three hours a night. Since I’ve started running, my insomnia struggles are so much better. I still have bouts now and then, but overall I sleep so much better.
- Energy. Initially running left me an exhausted, worthless lump. As my body, specifically my legs, have adjusted and gotten stronger, I actually have more energy throughout the day. That’s even more obvious on the days when I do nothing and feel drained. The more energy we spend, the more we get in return.
- Confidence. Who would have thought that the girl who dreaded running the mile in high school would ever run a sub-three-hour marathon? Not me. But I did it. Three times, in fact. The confidence in my physical strength has manifest itself into confidence in my emotional and mental strength, too. I can do hard things. I know this because I’ve done them.
- Health. That should be obvious, but I started running to get time alone as a new mom. Health was just a nice byproduct. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized just how incredible running has been for my body. I’ve bounced back from two major surgeries. I’ve recovered from a bad bike accident that could have been far worse had my body been weaker. I rarely get sick, but when I do I’m better faster. My migraines are a thing of the past. No more ulcer. The only aches and pains I get now are from a hard race or workout. I’m in better shape at 41 than I was at 21, and I love it.
- Friendship. What is it about running that bonds people together? Why is it that I feel able to open up to my friends when we run and share the deepest parts of myself? I don’t have an answer, but I’m grateful for the friendships I’ve forged on my runs. They are among the dearest relationships I have.
- Pain. No, really. I’ve experienced a lot of pain and discomfort while running. And guess what? I lived. I am tougher than I thought. Stronger than I believed. I can take a beating and keep on ticking. Being comfortable on my cozy couch is nice, but feeling that searing burn in my quads at mile 26 and still crossing the finish line at 26.2 is empowering.
- Clear-headedness. Running is meditation. It’s where I go to unravel the knots in my life. It’s like my legs are windshield wipers clearing my view with every footstep and I can see my life through a clearer lens. It’s where I get answers to so many of my life’s questions.
- Peace. I’m no longer at war with my body. I’ve gone beyond accepting what it looks like and have found peace with my legs, my stomach, my shoulders. It’s taken awhile, but I realize beauty isn’t found on Instagram or in a magazine. Beauty is in my stride, my breath, my being. I love who I am. I feel beautiful when I run.
Yes, running and I are good together. We have our moments when I consider leaving, but the good far outweighs the bad. Our relationship doesn’t look the way it did in the early days; it’s better than ever. So, to running I say thank you and I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day running.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor, marathoner Feetures! and Fit Mom Strong Mom ambassador. You can follow her fitness adventures at www.kiminthegym.com.