For The Love Of Running

This morning as I was going through my emails I came across a notice from my blog. Someone had left a comment. Comments happen every day but today’s comment set off a series of memories, memories that were so vivid I was left with no choice but to examine them and in turn examine the true reason for my love of running. Surprisingly, when it comes down to it, my love of running has less to do with the endorphins that course through my body, the sense of accomplishment I get when I cross another finish line or the fact that running is absolute evidence that I am taking care of my own health, than it does with the people that I have met and continue to meet because of this sport.

The message this morning was from Jim Brennan, no relation, who I met six years ago at the starting line of the Baltimore Marathon. Six years later, Jim and I are still in touch. Not on a regular basis but enough to remind me that the best part of running is the people.

Every few months, when we start a new training group at the store, I tell them the same thing.

“You came here to get fit. You came here to cross a finish line. And you will get those things. But you will get something so much better than that. Each week as you tackle your goals, you will build a bond with the other participants. You will find friendship along the miles. And that will be one of the greatest gifts this new sport will give to you.”

It sounds cheesy but it is true.

As I started examining my love of running this morning I thought back over the years. I thought about the people who have come into my life through running. The friends I made through our local running club, the strangers I met at the starting line of a marathon and never lost touch with. I thought about the people who I don’t really know but who have inspired me at almost every race for the past 20 odd years. People who ran for Ainsley’s Angels and other organizations pushing athletes through the race. I thought about the people who started out as anything but athletes, losing 100+ pounds along the way and covering far more miles than they ever thought possible. And I thought about all of my running friends who encouraged them all the way through their journey from fat to fit.

But it is about more than running.

So many of the people I have met since I started my own journey are so much more than “running friends” now. Yes, there were literally hundreds of people sending messages through my husband as I made my way around the course at Beach to Battleship and there have been dozens of people cheering me on on other courses. But there is so much more than that. There was the friend who was willing to drop everything after a year of planning in order to be by my side two years ago when my whole world was turned upside down. There were the friends who started as “running friends” who called or sent cards or messaged me on a regular basis as we started living a new normal after depression changed our lives. There was my coach, who was there every step of the way even when I stopped running because I couldn’t run and cry at the same time.

Running is so much more than a sport.

Running is a community. A community that is stronger than I ever imagined. A community that makes every day better for so many of us.

So, yes, I love running. I love the sound of my feet on the ground, the sun on my face and the sweat dripping from my body. I love that it has made me a stronger person. But mostly, I love the people running has brought into my life.

Thanks Jim Brennan, for helping me to see this.