Why do I run?  Why do I try to push myself harder than just what feels comfortable?

You know, I’m not really sure.

I started running when I was in 7th grade as part of my school’s cross country team.  I’m not really sure why I joined in the first place – my sister had done XC, so it’s something I was familiar with.  I originally thought I was going to play field hockey, but then the modified XC coach started recruiting me and I figured, why not?

I ran XC from 7th grade until 10th grade.  In 10th grade, my IT band issues had caught up with me (although I didn’t know what it was other than “knee problems” at that point), and I didn’t feel like I could continue running with the team.  I was definitely sad, but switched over to soccer instead.

I also ran track in the spring.  I did that every year, from 7th grade, all the way until I graduated.  Sprinting didn’t bother my knee at all, and I loved it.  Even though I was a distance runner in XC, I couldn’t do distance on the track – it bored me.  So I spent my track years doing the 100 hurdles, 200 hurdles, 400 hurdles, 4 x1 relay, and pole vault.

During college and grad school, I strayed from running, but continued with sports.  I was on the rugby team, the club soccer team, and the taekwondo team.  I didn’t really care for the club soccer, and didn’t stick with it for long.  I loved rugby, but couldn’t commit the amount of time required (it was like joining a sorority).  And I absolutely adored taekwondo.  However, at this point, running fell by the wayside.  I never really went for a run.  There were a few times during those five years where I would go run laps on the indoor track, but I could count those times on one hand.

After finishing grad school, I moved to San Diego and picked back up with rugby (San Diego Surfers Women’s Rugby).  Although, again, I couldn’t commit the time needed to continue to play.  I still loved the sport, but would have had to take off from work almost every other Thursday and Friday and buy a plane ticket once or twice a month to go to games.  Yikes.  I also tried to find a taekwondo dojang (school) that I liked, but there was no place that felt comfortable – plus it was crazy expensive.  Fortunately, San Diego has beautiful weather and I was at least able to go running a little more often (still not much).  I also learned how to surf, but was never very good at it.  My husband (then boyfriend) bought me a mountain bike and I really liked to take it into the canyon by our apartment.  The only thing that worried me about that was the coyotes. I knew they were in there, and I didn’t like that one bit.

After a year in San Diego, we moved back to upstate NY, and I was without any idea of what I wanted to do with myself.  These were my stomping grounds, so I went a little out of my comfort zone – I made my own rugby team.  There was no women’s team in the area, so I worked with the existing men’s team (LOVE them) and built a women’s team from scratch.  It was a huge success!  And also a HUGE demand on my time and energy.  But I loved playing rugby and spending time with my teammates.

Unfortunately (again – I feel like I’m saying that a lot in this post), my rugby days came to an end on April 11, 2009.  My ankle was broken in a tournament.  Once I was in a cast, I ended up with a blood clot in my calf.  With time, everything healed and I was given a clean bill of health – but I’m really not supposed to play rugby anymore.  There’s always a chance that if I get hit (which you WILL when you play rugby), I’ll get another blood clot.  And you know what?  I’d really rather not deal with that again because it seriously sucked.

So my rugby days came to an end a little over a year ago, and I was left with nothing to do.  I decided to go back to my roots and run.  And run, and run, and run.  It’s hard for me to stick to something unless I’m working towards a goal.  So I picked one – I was going to sign up for a marathon!  (I know, I don’t know what I was thinking either.)  I figured, I already had a good running base, and could run 5.5 miles at a time.  So I wasn’t starting from scratch.  But it had been 12 years since I raced.

I signed up for the marathon back in October 2009 and started my training in November.  I’ve learned a lot about myself during my training.  My strengths, my weaknesses, and what motivates me.  There have been good runs, and there have been awful runs.  There was a two month stretch (February and March of this year) where I just didn’t want to do anything.  I’ve also had the greatest runners high, and incredibly satisfying moments of personal bests.  It’s the runs like that that keep you going.

Unfortunately (again), I didn’t train the way I should have, and I ended up getting burned out, skipping runs, and eventually ending up with an overuse injury – runners’ knee.  My injury could have been prevented if I had trained properly.  By not skipping runs, increasing my weekly mileage no more than 10% per week, and incorporating strength training into my routine, I could have avoided the knee problems of this spring.  But at that point, I didn’t know any better.

May 30th rolled around and I was at the starting line of the Buffalo Marathon, still unsure of which distance I would be running that day.  On the outside, I was telling people it would most likely be the half, but on the inside, I was secretly hoping for the full.  At mile 9 I was elated that my knee was feeling manageable.  But by mile 10, I knew it would be the half that day.  So I kept my chin up and finished the half with a smile on my face and the drive to succeed the next time around.

Now I am training for what will be my first full marathon this September.  I am in a much better position now than I was when I started back in November.  I know my body and what it can do.  I also know how far I can push myself without getting injured.  I’ve learned a lot about running, racing, nutrition, strength training, physiology, and countless other things that I knew nothing about a year ago.

This summer, my focus is my training.  I have the knowledge and experience to do it properly this time around.  I am confident that I will succeed in my training and enjoy my race in September.  And I am very thankful that I’ve had all these experiences and learned so much this past year.

So why do I run?

I love the feeling of accomplishment it gives me after a really good long run.  I love the confidence it gives me outside of running.  If I can run 18 miles, there’s nothing I can’t do.  I love those (rare but excellent) runners highs.  I love the comraderie between runners.  I love the atmosphere at a race with everyone cheering and smiling.  I also love that when I run this much, I can eat whatever and whenever I want (good perk!).

I think the thing that I love most about it is the pride I get when I think about a long run and how I managed to push myself to do something that I had never even considered to be possible even a year ago.  Over the course of the past year, I’ve become a very different person.  And I have my running to thank for that.