I have been running off and on for the past twenty years. During my “off” seasons of life I certainly haven’t looked like I should stand with the lanky athletes who fly over miles like stepping stones, but my heart has always identified with them. Over time, I have had so many people remark when I tell them of my love of running, “Well, that’s good for you, I suppose. But, I just hate running. I could never do that.”

Let me let you in on a secret – most runners hated running just as much as you think you do when we started.

When you first start running, it isn’t fun. Your body protests wildly at this sudden increase in exertion. Your heart pounds and you feel like you will never get enough oxygen to your lungs again. Your brand new running shorts ride up your legs like a sick version of a peep show as your thighs rub together and create the mother of all rashes. If you are carrying a few extra pounds, you feel your sides jiggle in the most unflattering of ways. Sweat trickles into your eyes and burns clear to your brain. You feel like your feet are stuck in cement blocks and realize you could probably walk faster than you are running at this moment. Your new shoes cause blisters which burn from the assault of the sweaty socks. Your head feels foggy as all blood rushes to your muscles to keep you upright. If you keep going, you feel the nausea come in peristaltic waves and you try to keep from losing your breakfast in front of any poor soul watching this spectacle. Your mouth becomes cotton and you try to spit to clear your airway, but do so into the wind, causing the projectile to swing back onto your salty black tank top like a slimy badge of idiocy. You are acutely aware of how completely ridiculous you look, and begin walking (it’s faster at this point anyway) as quickly as possible back to the safety of air conditioning and a DQ blizzard.

This is usually the experience most non-runners have, and then they decide they don’t like it. They quit, thinking they just aren’t a runner and will never enjoy it. News flash – no one likes that!

I have gone through the above scenario more times than I would care to admit (minus the DQ blizzard). Every time I get out of shape, this is the horror that awaits me. However, I go through it every time with a smile. Why? Because I know what waits on the other side, and each day I’m getting closer.

There is another side of running that only runners know, and it’s addictive enough to keep us pushing through the hard runs to reach it at all costs. It may take weeks or months, but eventually you start to have different experiences. You have runs when you are light and fast. You feel the miles melt in surrender under your legs as you run through the fog on a dewy morning. The water forms tiny drops of crystal on your eyelashes as you pass through the stillness. You feel more alive with each mile you conquer, and the endorphins dance through your body like liquid happiness. Your heart pumps in controlled beats of efficacy. You see natural beauty that few experience, as you go places the untrained will never reach. You embrace adventure with wings on your feet and, at that moment, all stress and heartache melt away to the simplicity of lightly falling footsteps. You feel wind dance through your hair and cause goosebumps on your skin, generated only from your speed as you break through your previous pace records. You feel each muscle springing into action, propelling you forward with power. You leave all sadness, all worry, all weight, all brokenness behind. You feel like you can run forever and are stronger than you have ever been. You have dominated your weaknesses within, and every movement is cascading together into pure adrenaline. At this moment, more than any other, you are alive.

This is why I love running. This is why anyone would love running. Most people who think they hate running have just never tasted this. Or, if they have, they have forgotten it. They continue to watch us from their cushy cars in our less flattering moments, struggling up a hill with looks of pain on our faces and ask, “Why would anyone do that?” But, watch those of us who have again learned to fly, and you will have your answer. “Because we know we can be something more…”

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