This Is Why I Run

9 Dec

As part of the publicity tour for Indigo I had the opportunity to write a post for the wonderful website DearTeenMe.comFirst of all, let me just say how much I love this website. Authors are invited to write a letter to their teen selves, sometimes funny, sometimes apologetic, always thoughtful. There is something cathartic in writing a letter to your former self. If you haven’t, I suggest you do. I wrote three letters. Well, actually, I wrote one letter that went through several evolutions before settling into a fine little post about running. I won’t post the entire letter here (to read the letter in its entirety follow the link to DearTeenMe.com), but I do want to share this with you:

Dear Teen Me . . .

. . . You think running is hard now? Toughing out those painful steps while you are young will prepare you for some of your darkest days . . . Running through pain and fatigue gives you strength and endurance. And you need those things not just today, but also down the road. . . .

. . . In the long run, you will regret giving up. You will regret not pushing yourself a little harder, a little longer. . .  

. . . Invest in yourself! Life isn’t about winning; it’s about participating. Stop saying you can’t; don’t worry about failure. Security isn’t found in the eyes of a stranger or the arms of a boyfriend. You won’t find it in awards and medals, or the accolades of others. Stop chasing those things! Security is found in patience, faith, the right attitude, confidence and perseverance. Running will help cultivate these traits in you. Do it now, while your future is ahead of you. Find joy one step at a time. Choose happiness today. And never, ever give up!

Keep running; the finish line is closer than you think!

This is why I run! I meant every word of this letter to my teenage self. 

Let me back up a little.

I remember the sixth grade physical fitness testing all too well. In fact, it’s kind of etched into my memory like a scar. The mile run just did me in. Four laps around the kick-ball field left me light-headed and hyperventilating. I panicked and passed out.  At 5’3″ and 123 pounds, I wasn’t the tallest girl in my class, but I was the shapeliest, the curviest–I was about the same size as the teacher. It was humiliating when, unable to recover, my dad, a paramedic, was called. Much to my and my parents’ dismay, this little scenario was to be replayed every school year during the annual physical fitness test.

In high school, my sister and one of our closest friends joined the cross country team. Some of the girls on the team organized a few morning runs during summer break. Not wanting to be left out, I decided to join them on their inaugural summer run. Yeah, that lasted about two block. My lungs burned, my shins ached and I feared more than anything  collapsing on the side of the road and being left for dead. I turned around and walked home. And I never went back. Running simply wasn’t for me.

After high school, My sister got married, my best friend moved to a college 400 miles away. I was slightly overweight, unfit, and indulging in some unhealthy habits. I found myself unable to make or reach goals. I was lost–at least I felt lost. Something had to change. One evening, frustrated and disappointed with myself, I put on an old pair of second-hand Reeboks and some slouchy boxer shorts and went out for a run. It was slow. It probably wasn’t pretty. But it was a start. One block turned into six. One mile eventually turned into three or more. In time, my awkward stride found its rhythm and my sporadic runs evolved into a daily ritual. A runner was born.

I am not fast; I do not win. But that is not the point. Happiness is found in patience, faith, the right attitude, confidence and perseverance. Running will help cultivate these traits in you. Given time, you will find joy one step at a time.

So, what’s your story? If you could, what would you tell your teenage self?

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