BEWARE! Long post!!
Today while I was out on a long run with a couple of friends, they asked me a question that really got me thinking.
How long have you been running for?
This is a pretty standard question you ask most other running friends during your training runs together. When I have asked others about it, most of the time my fellow runner can remember pretty close to exactly when they started running.
A year ago when I decided I needed to lose weight. 5 years ago after I got married. Last month when I wanted to change the way I was living my life.
Then the question always turns around, and I get asked, when did you start running? This is a really difficult question to answer. In one way or another, I have been running since high school. I ran indoor and outdoor track and field for a couple years after I made the decision that I needed to find friends (I was a pretty lonely, dorky kid in high school).
After high school, however, I was lost. There was no track at my college (we didn't even have a football field), and it was either cold and snowy or hot and humid. Running was something I knew I had to do to stay in shape and keep that freshman 15 off (that failed!), but it became really hard in college to run by myself after the past few years of high school where I was able to run not only for myself, but also to be a part of a team and feel close to my friends.
I ended up falling to a lot of things that were bad for me. Drinking, smoking, fighting with my boyfriend, (usually a combination of all three of these), laying in bed playing WoW for hours on end, eating horribly, and overall feeling pretty down on myself. This lasted for a couple years. Running was lost to me, and I had no desire to try and find it again.
Then things changed. My relationships became a lot more healthy (not only with my boyfriend, but also with my family), I quit smoking, I started eating better, and finally I made the decision to start running again. At first it was just in the school gym on the treadmill, but eventually I found my way outside again. I ran on and off for the last two years of college. I was not running a steady schedule, but hey I was getting myself out there.
Then grad school hit. For those of you who haven't attended grad school, grad school is like a train hitting you and throwing everything else that might have ever mattered to you off the tracks. Especially running. The first year of grad school I worked, and I worked, and I worked. I put off getting married. I worked on the nights and weekends when my fiancee was there, even though he took the time out of his life to drive 2 hours to come visit me. I was incredibly unhappy.
I think my mind was made up about grad school before I started my second year, but I wasn't ready to admit it. As I started my second year, I was ready to get back at work, but in a healthier work-life balance. That didn't work out as well as I hoped it to, but I had at least started running again. And as my miles increased, my desire to stay in grad school decreased. I loved how running made me feel, and it made me want even less to do the work I was doing in grad school.
Then I ran my first half marathon in May of 2010 with my fiancee. It was amazing. It was hard work, and the hard work I put into training paid off in the completion of my first half marathon. It was a reward I never experienced in grad school. At this point I had already decided not to continue in grad school, but the feeling I felt after completing my half validated my decision.
After a few unforeseen situations, I ended up in the Bay Area, working at a running store.
Running in the Bay Area has been a journey I have enjoyed more than anything else in my life. When I moved here, I made the decision to start running more seriously. I found a great group of folks already organized to run with, and also organized my own group of people I have grown to love like a family. My self esteem again has skyrocketed. I have found friends who are some of the best people I could have ever asked to share my running adventures with. I completed my first marathon with one of my running friends helping me along in my last 9 miles. I am running half marathons every week or at least every other week. I am training for my first 50K. My marriage is happy, I feel healthy. And after I realized that for me, having a "work-life balance" is completely impossible, I have at least found something I am happy to consider both my work and my life.
So when I get asked the question, how long have you been running? The easiest answer I can think of is 10 years. I started running track and field in the spring of 2002, and running has been with me ever since. But there have been so many times in my life where I gave up on running when I shouldn't have, I don't know if it is fair to consider myself a 10 year runner.
So, I guess the answer I should come up with is that I am a 10 and 2 year runner. Running has been a part of my life for the majority of the past 10 years of my life, but I have only started seriously training in the past 2 years. But now it has become so ingrained into who I am, I don't think I could ever not run.
This was a long and complicated answer to a seemingly simple question. It makes me wonder, what is really behind the short and sweet answers I get when I usually ask that question? I love that I will have miles and hours ahead to ponder this with the people I am lucky enough to be striding next to.