Why I Run: When It Found Me, I Found Myself

NBCChicago's Stride blog aims to cover Chicago's dedicated running and active lifestyle committee. We've asked some of those individuals to share with us their motivation for getting out there and pounding the pavement. This is why they run.

When I was in eighth grade, my family moved across the great state of Iowa. It was a long, lonely winter, but when spring arrived, I tried out for track. On a cloudy March afternoon, they lined us up, blew the whistle, and I left everyone in the dust.

Immediately, people treated me differently. I wasn't just the new girl anymore. I was the fast chick. The athlete. Miss Jock.

And I liked the respect that came with it. Plus, I felt my best when I was fit and strong and athletic. It defined me. It came naturally.

But I never considered myself a runner. Sure, my God-given speed allowed me to win my fair share of track accolades, but for me, it was more useful in those "high-profile" sports that the popular kids played.

I went to Saint Louis University to play soccer, never having run more than 2, maaaybe 3 miles in my entire life.

The first day of preseason, they sent us out on a 5-mile "fun run." I was so exhausted, I peed my pants halfway through the run. Not one of my finer moments.
I realized I had to start actually running and this was a problem. I'd never really "run" before, and worst of all, I didn't like running. I got myself a sports Discman (!) and started venturing around campus. Once I got over the initial pain of that first mile, running was nice. Relaxing, even.

A few knee surgeries and two ankle reconstructions later, I hung up my soccer cleats and what I thought was my identity as an athlete. I escaped it all and spent a semester abroad. I didn't exercise once. It was the longest I'd ever gone without some sort of organized sports practice.

When I came home, I was ready to get active again. However, without cartilage or ankle joints, I didn't have many options. So I picked up running, and trained for my first race, the Bix 7. I loved every minute of it.

Shortly after, I got hitched, moved to Cincinnati, started my first big-girl job, slacked off with working out and ate too much. I got fed up with my fattiness, and signed up for the St. Louis Half Marathon.

Somewhere in the throes of training, something clicked, and running became a habit. More importantly, it became a necessity.

I wasn't fast or good or particularly talented, but running still validated me, just like it did that fateful day in junior high.

Once again, running helped me find myself. My best self.

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