Someday I’ll have to write a blog about why I've run far away from a traditional life and found comfort on the road, but for now I’m focusing on why I hit the pavement with my own two feet. I still have a love/hate relationship with running, but I mostly love it, and if I’m not traveling, hiking, eating or stuck in front of my laptop, this is what I’m doing.
I run because I can.
After being hospitalized with a blood clot and two pulmonary embolisms in early September, I was in so much pain, I couldn’t walk. My leg felt like it was going to explode from the pressure and swelling, and getting up too fast made me feel like I was going to pass out. I was determined to get back on my feet as soon as possible, and a week after being discharged from the emergency room I was finally able to move around. A few days after that I took my first walk outside, and with each slow and cautious step, I realized how much I missed running. I wanted to smack myself for all those times I ran and silently complained about the distance remaining and how tired I was.
By week three, I could finally run again, but just a few spurts here and there with a bunch of walk breaks. I was excited, but also playing it safe and carefully monitoring my heartbeat and breathing. Less than two weeks after that, I was back at my regular two mile pace. In the months since then, I've added more distance and I'm back in the four mile zone. I know this isn’t the norm for PE patients, but I’d like to think my healthy lifestyle helped me bounce back relatively quickly, and for that I am grateful.
Though it was very temporary, having my ability to run snatched right out of my hands was a humbling and life-changing experience. It taught me to be truly grateful for things I have that others might not, and it made me realize that I should never let myself put things off. You never know when something might be taken from you forever. And this brings me to my next thought…
I run because my dad can’t.
I've never gone for a run or a hike with my dad. I’ve pushed him in a wheelchair on plenty of walks, but that’s about it. He has muscular dystrophy, which is a degenerative disease that gradually weakens every muscle in the body. He’s been in a chair since I was 16 or so, and when I was a little kid, I remember him falling a lot, so he probably needed mobility aids before that, but I also understand why he fought it for so long. I would have too. I’d much rather fall on my face a few dozen times than essentially turn in my body's letter of resignation.
I think of all the times he probably wishes he could chase after his dog or do something faster, and the frustration he must feel when he's reminded that he physically can’t. He grew up playing tennis and basketball, and while he wasn’t a track and field champ, he could run. And then that was taken from him. Not overnight, but over the course of many days and weeks and years. Not only did he lose quickness and strength in his legs, but he now struggles to open water bottles and feed himself with a fork. Seeing this kills me. I don’t think anyone I know understands this, and it’s not something I often discuss. I’ve cried so many times thinking about how his disease will eat away at him until his last breath, but I need to get a grip, because he’s still here. I want to enjoy the time I have with him, not waste it by being upset.
I always send him photos from my hikes and outdoor adventures (sometimes before they're fully edited), and it's one of the things that has pushed me to improve as a photographer. I want to show him these beautiful places the way I see them, because I know that's the only way he can experience it with me. And every time I lace up my shoes and stretch pre-run, I think of him. He can’t do this. I can. I have to do it for him.
I run because I love the way I feel afterwards.
If I was a racehorse, I’d be one of those slowpokes that surprises everyone during the final stretch. I LOVE the feeling of redlining my engine straight to the finish line. I get excited knowing I still have it in me to hit the go button, even when I’m tired. And let's be honest: I don’t love running the entire time I’m doing it. Sometimes I listen to the smack of my shoes on the sidewalk and roll my eyes because I know I have hundreds more to go. I run so I can be done. And then, when I’m sweaty, smelly and panting for breath, I feel amazing. I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished, and only then do I feel like my day is complete.
That’s why I run. What motivates you?
Top photo by the lovely and talented Christian Schaffer