What Keeps Me Going

Blog, Sue Cloutier

I talk about running a lot, write about running, and read about running because I freaking love running. That much is obvious. What might be less obvious is why.  I really only have two reasons. One is the endorphin rush. Honestly, a lot of times running is hard and kinda sucks. Sometimes it sucks hard. But if you stick with you might get blessed with a run where your legs are moving freely, your mind is clear, your breathing is comfortable, and you feel like you are flying. And if you’re lucky, it might even happen on race day. And these are the runs that I live for, the runs that keep me coming back. The runs that make me feel like I am whole-heartedly a runner.

The second reason that I love running so much is the satisfaction of setting what feels like an improbable goal (running a sub-30 5K, running a marathon from start to finish, qualifying for Boston), setting or following a plan to achieve that goal, and seeing the visible results of my progress. This is what keeps my legs moving during those runs that don’t come so easily. Those runs where my legs don’t want to turn over, where I can’t find a rhythm, when I just can’t catch my breath. The runs where my lungs seize up with exercise-induced asthma, forcing me to walk. The runs where the sun is beating down on me and I can’t maintain any kind of pace at all. Most runs seem to have some degree of difficulty for me. Regardless of how terrible the run feels, I know that it is accomplishing things within my body. Blood is flowing, oxygen is pumping, muscles are getting used and strengthened, and fitness IS improving; especially if I’m being consistent. And even though most runs are kinda tough, and some really suck, and the good ones are few and far between, I know that my fitness is improving, and I will see the results.

After a few years of running, I know that the culmination of all those runs, all the blood, sweat, tears, and puffs of the inhaler will result in race day achievement. Might not even be on the day of the goal race. Maybe all doesn’t go as planned on race day. But the fitness is there, and will show up in a future race, or run, or in continued improvement. This is the real addiction for me. So far I have achieved or am achieving every goal that I set. So it’s kinda fun to see how big a goal I can think of, and how long it will take me to achieve it. I have had little goals like chipping away at my mile time, or big goals like qualifying for Boston. While my main focus is on time goals, I also like to pursue different distances like going for the marathon or beyond. Each goal represents its own kind of challenge.

When I was little I loved to watch Sesame Street. I was kind of poor and we didn’t always have access to cable but we had public television, so I watched a lot of Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. And one thing those shows reinforced in me is that I could do and be anything I wanted. I always believed that. Growing up, I was smart and did well in school. I could read at an early age, was talented artistically, and just believed I could do anything. One thing I discovered that I didn’t do well, though, was run. I was terrible in gym class and always last picked to be on any team. This was the one area of my life that I didn’t automatically excel in.

I think that’s why it is such a passion for me now. Once I discovered that running was possible, that it could be learned, and that I could even get faster if I really trained myself, it was like I became invincible. My one perceived weakness in life could be overcome, and maybe could become a strength. And it has become a source of strength for me. One thing it has taught me, above all else, is discipline. When you grow up having things come easily to you, you get used to not having to try too hard or having to work for things. You can skate by doing the bare minimum, get lazy, and have no real work ethic. This was me my whole life until my early thirties when I started running.

Now I’m committed to working hard, setting goals, and following through. I see the results of my hard work, and it motivates me to continue. I have learned to apply this in other areas of my life as well. I am more disciplined at work, at home, and in social interactions. Running has changed all areas of my life. I get more sleep, I refrain from drinking as much alcohol as I would like, I take my vitamins, drink my water, and I maintain a healthy weight. It also makes me very happy.

I started writing this post today to talk about my one of my most important running goals, going for a sub-2 hour half marathon, but I got derailed in examining why I love running so much. So here is what I originally wanted to say: I recently did a mile on the track which I ran in 7:51. According to this mile time, my current fitness would put me dead on for a 2:00 half marathon. This excites me very much because this is a goal that I’ve had for years and would be a HUGE milestone for me. Although my current training is focused primarily on my fall marathon, I genuinely don’t care how terribly my marathon goes if I can manage to break 2 hours in the half this fall. I will have considered my training this year to be a success. That is all. Happy running!

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