Why I run…hint: it’s NOT to be skinny.

For my 19th birthday, I asked my dad for running shoes and my mom for running clothes. And that’s what I got. I laced up my Mizunos and went out for a run on a cold January day. I made it about a quarter mile. My lungs were burning. I think I probably completed about 2 miles that day. But it was hard. And the next day I could barely walk. But I was going to be a runner. I’d never been athletic and I didn’t really think I had an athlete’s body. But, for whatever reason, I decided to run.

Martin Luther King Day run 2012

Martin Luther King Day run 2012

After that first run that was so difficult, I somehow convinced myself to continue and, with a few breaks here and there, have been running ever since. Just a couple months after starting I decided to run the Des Moines Half Marathon.

I soon started to love running. Back in those days, I typically ran about 3 miles a day with slightly longer runs on weekends. Before that first half marathon, the longest I’d run was eight miles. I did that twice (this was partly due to terrible allergies and not just bad training). But I finished!

I loved running. I loved the way it made me feel. I was confident. I loved that my body craved healthy foods when I ran. I didn’t go on a diet, but all of a sudden I didn’t even want to eat junk food. It gave structure to my days. In college, I woke up early every morning and ran before doing anything else. This is not what I do now, but I loved that routine when I had it.

Now my reasons for running are not all that different than they were then. I still love the way it makes me feel. When I’m having a bad day, I can go on a run and – if I go far enough – when I come back, I will feel much better. There’s something therapeutic about running that other forms of exercise just don’t have.

As life gets busy, running gives me something that I can do for myself. I never feel guilty about running. No matter what else I have to do, the hour or two hours I spend running can never be better spent. My mood is better, I feel more able to take on the world, I’m happier, my stress level is down, I sleep better (really, this is rarely an issue for me…I excel at sleeping), there really is no downside to running.

I don’t run to be skinny. I don’t do anything to be skinny. When I subscribe to running blogs and magazines or women’s “health” pages on Facebook, I am really saddened by the obsession with being skinny. Running has taught me to love my body, not because it’s skinny (side note: I don’t describe myself as skinny), but because I know what it’s capable of.