Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Run for Me

That’s right. I said what you’re all thinking. I know it’s not the politically correct thing to say, that it’s not a kosher statement, but I don’t care. I’m putting it out there that I run completely and totally for my selfish self. I don’t run for either kids or kidneys. Nor do I run for hearts, lungs, skin, colons or prostates. (I might run for breasts, but that’d totally depend on the context.) I most certainly don’t run for heart disease, multiple schlerosis, down syndrome, diabetes or any form of cancer. I might consider running against them … but probably not. I don’t run for general health, for other people’s obesity, or for the environment. I don’t run for general fitness. And I can say with certainty, I don’t run for you.

About six weeks ago, I was running through China Town, and on a down note in whatever I had blaring on the headphones I heard a Latino voice yelling, “Hey, Gringo! Why you jogging?” My normal reaction to something like that would be unprintable, but as I was basically past the guy by the time the question registered, any response would have involved breaking stride and turning around. Not worth the effort. But, over the next few days, I puzzled over the question, why was I jogging? I scratched at it, prodded it and, then grew tired of it and forgot it. That is, until the pre-race speeches at the Healthy Kidney 10K about three weeks ago.

At the Kidney, between (NYRRC Prez) Mary Wittenberg’s and the United Arab Emirates' representative’s respective speeches, we were all putatively running for healthy kidneys, medical research, general health, kids, against obesity, for religious tolerance, freedom from discrimination, international comity and for world peace. Yes, actual, honest-to-goodness world peace. I only wish I had the creativity to make this stuff up! Despite what you may think about running for a cause or a charity, that's really an awful lot of pressure for a 6 mile footrace. As for me, as those speeches were filling the air, I was realizing that I don’t run for any of the reasons they were giving. That’s right, none of them.

So, why do I run? I’ve spent three weeks thinking about it and have an answer:

I run for the sun rising over the East River. I run for the feeling of working stiffness out of my legs in the morning. I run for the rush of flying past a bicyclist as we’re both climbing the Queensboro Bridge. I run to dodge canine urine. I run for the pain of trying to hit a sub-six pace in the last 400 of a half-marathon and that feeling that you … might … just … vomit after a hard-fought 5K. I run both for the annoyance of being passed by a sprinting guy in chinos at the crest of the Williamsburg Bridge and the feeling of comeuppance for catching and passing him before the bottom. I run for the fear of three more reps and the elation at finishing the last one. I run because otherwise I wouldn’t know where every Starbucks in the City is located, would never have seen Anacostia in D.C., would never have walked in on two homeless guys sharing a bath in a public restroom sink in the East River Park.

I run for the thrill of singing along with The Killers at the top of my lungs as I hit the peak of the Williamsburg Bridge (can't hear my own tone-deafness with headphones, heh). I run because I know what it’s like to be stopped by injury and I run because I know what it’s like to run through one. I run to get through the morning heat that collects on Driggs Avenue to the relative coolness of McCarren Park. I run because when everything in life is insane, there’s structure in the training. I run for the tears when crashing into the wall after months of marathon training, for the frustration of finishing a 10K in 40:02, for the annoyance of a season lost to injury and work. I run for the elation of bursting through old plateaus, the hope of another race in six months and for the knowledge that in this sport, as in no others, hard work does create success. I run to see a deer charge at me in the woods, to see a homeless guy peeing in a trash can on the Brooklyn Bridge, to flip off rude drivers who don’t look both ways when turning right on red. I run to share the celebrations, conversations and dreams of my friends. I run for the splash of the rain, the sting of snow and the warmth of the sun.

I run because my life is richer with this hobby than without it.

There really is only one answer to the question, Why are you jogging? I run for myself. Any other reason would present a pale comparison.


Sempre Libera said...

Hear, hear!

Skylight said...

Excellent post! Powerfully stated. You've put into words what's true for most of us, I would say.

Keep running!

mouse said...

great, great, great post. you summed it up perfectly.

nyflygirl said...

I concur!!

And I think Reebok's marketing people should read your post...I think that would inspire more people to run than the "run easy" campaign will :)

Anonymous said...

Poetically said.