Ask any runner why they run, and you’re sure to get an earful. Some do it for sport, some for fun, some for a cause, and others for the medal. Three years ago, when I decided to start running, I could barely run a block to catch a train. Yesterday, I completed my sixth half marathon and set a new PR (personal record). Despite the fact that I missed my goal time by 12 seconds, 36 hours post run I’m still on such an amazing high from the race. And despite the soreness in my legs, I’m already looking forward to my next race.
In late 2014, I decided it was time to trade in my road bike for a pair of running shoes. Cycling had been a hobby of mine for fifteen or so years. In that time, I’d ridden thousands of miles, in groups large and small, through several countries, and it was great. But as the years progressed and I went from a bachelor with plenty of free time to a husband and father with almost none (don’t get me wrong – I got the better end of the stick), it became more and more difficult to find 4+ hours to get in a good ride. Living in Brooklyn didn’t help, as there’s only so many times I can loop around prospect park before feeling like a hamster on a wheel. Finally, in mid-2014 I was involved in a somewhat serious cycling accident when a car turned right into my path one Friday morning. Fortunately for me, my helmet and bike bore most of the impact, both cracking in several places, but doing their job in keeping my skull in one piece. It was then that I decided that it was time to find a new escape.
Running didn’t come easy to me at first. Instead of counting minutes per mile or distance per run, as most runners do, I was counting blocks. How many did I have to walk in between each block that I ran? At first, it was run one block, then walk two, and repeat. Then it became run one, walk one. In only about 6 weeks, I achieved my first goal – running a full mile (5 “Ocean Parkway blocks”) without stopping. Then, it became 2 miles. Then 3, and so on.
By November 2014, I convinced myself that if I could do 3, I could do 13, so I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon and started training. I bought winter running gear to get me through the cold months, and told myself that no matter what, I was going to somehow run this race. Once my kids found out that we were going to Disney World, there was no turning back.
And there I was, that February morning in 2015, standing at the starting line in Orlando. Being a first time runner, I was put into the back corral, and spent most of the run weaving around groups of women marching hand in hand in tutu’s. But somehow, two hours and fourteen minutes after I started, I made it to the finish line and was still (barely) moving. What an amazing feeling that was. I used my last few ounces of energy to text my family telling them that I finished and was still alive.
A few minutes after I finished, while walking to the busses that would take us back to the hotel, my 10-year-youger brother Elliot, who decided to run the race a week earlier, called me. “How’d you do?”, he asked. “Amazing”, I said. “I trained and trained for months and I feel great, I did it in 2 hours 14 minutes” I said, with such pride. “How about you?” I asked. “Pretty good, 1 hour 47 minutes”, he responded, followed by a chuckle. Then the line went dead.
Was this the first time my younger brother beat me in a sport? Yes. Would it be the last? Certainly not. But it didn’t matter, because I didn’t run for time. I didn’t run for speed. I ran to prove to myself that I could. I ran to escape my daily routine, to appreciate the fact that I have legs that allow me to, and to marvel at the amazing world around us. I ran to breathe the crisp morning air, and to watch the sun rise and sky brighten with each step I took. I ran to run. And I still do.