It happened again the other day.
“So, why do you run…?”
The moment the words left his mouth, I had to hold back a salvo of snarky retorts. “It’s a nervous habit.” “Skipping takes too much coordination.” “Why? Did you see me?”
What am I supposed to do with a question like that? It’s like asking why you love your kids or why The Beatles were so good or why a sandwich tastes better when someone else makes it.
You either get it or you don’t.
Okay, I thought, putting on my best Jack Nicholson, you want answers? You want answers? I rolled up my mental sleeves. Let’s do this.
“Why do I run?”
I run because I believe you have to earn your pancakes.
I run because golf is boring.
I run because this white stomach has to get tan somehow.
I run because I’ve never really been a fan of my IT band anyway.
I run because the runner’s high is real, and it’s legal in all fifty states.
I run because I never want to waste money on laxatives.
I run because while I don’t ever plan on stealing anything, I want to be prepared, just in case.
I run because there’s no swagger like a post-long-run limp.
I run because I don’t think you should murder people.
I run because, yes, I would like a second piece of chocolate cake.
I run because I think the 1980s were on to something with their infatuation with neon and spandex.
I run because I have extended family. Who visit. Unexpectedly.
I run because I spent four years of high school doing hypothetical math problems about Bob traveling so many kilometers-per-hour on his bike and Larry racing him at so many miles-per-hour in his sports car and I’ll be darned if I let those conversion skills go to waste.
I run because every adult needs an excuse to go to Disney World. Without the kids.
I run because how can you not have an adventure when you wake up at 4:30 in the morning, strap on a headlamp, and cover twenty miles on foot?
I run because I like knowing the location and schedule of every bathroom in the city.
I run because trails get muddy when it rains.
I run because 1,800 calories a day doesn’t cut it.
I run because sometimes you need to cry.
I run because sometimes you need to laugh.
I run because sometimes you need to vent.
I run because sometimes you need to do all three. In the span of an hour.
I run because there’s an old man who shuffles down his driveway in a white robe and house slippers at the crack of dawn every day and, gosh darnit, he needs somebody to wave to.
I run because I can solve more of the world’s problems in two miles than the United States Congress can solve in a two-year term.
I run because I don’t want to talk to anybody.
I run because you won’t believe what happened yesterday and guess what Sally said and I had the strangest dream last night and did you hear about that one guy?
I run because, if I’m not careful, I can eat an entire pie.
I run because I want the free t-shirt that costs a $35 registration fee and 3.1 miles of torture.
I run because, let’s face it, it’s a lot cooler than rollerblading.
I run because when I strap on my water belt, I feel like Rambo.
I run because I’ve never finished a run and thought, “I wish I hadn’t done that,” but I have felt that way after eating McDonald’s or listening to a Taylor Swift song or watching another episode of My Strange Addiction.
I run because I like blowing my nose any way I want to, anywhere I want to, any time I want to.
I run because I want to be strong, not skinny; because the only thigh gap that exists is the one that occurs when I’m stretching my hamstring; because I’d rather crush that hill at mile twenty than squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans; because these legs are muscular and powerful and do everything I ask them to do, which is ridiculously amazing, if you ask me.
I run because the little girl inside me still believes there’s a shot I could make the Olympics, if only I could discover my “distance.”
I run because I like to drive down the highway and read the mile markers and keep driving and driving and driving and know that I covered more distance on foot during my last training run.
I run because everyone needs to listen to Dark Side of the Moon straight through in its entirety. Twice.
I run because I like being part of that group of people at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday mornings who are out there slogging the miles come rain or shine of hell or high water or all of the above.
I run because I like to spit.
I run because it adds something to morning coffee that cream and sugar just can’t.
I run because it makes me feel connected to the earth, to nature, to the universe, to myself.
I run because it disconnects me from everything else.
I run because I like being ridiculous.
I run because we are the great conflict, ballistic and controlled, chaotic and focused, delirious and strategic, contained and boundless, gluttons for punishment and jealous for glory.
I run because we’re human, darnit, and our bodies were made to move, our arms were made to pump, our quads were made to burn, our calves were made to contract, our feet were made to fly, our noses were made to drip, our eyes were made to water, our guts were made to spill, our cheeks were made to turn bright cherry red, our lungs were made to explode, our hearts were made to pump blood with frenzy and passion and single-minded obsession until we come as close to possible to unassisted flight, abandoning mortality and reaching, if only for a moment, the realm of divinity.
I run because I’m alive.
“DOES THAT ANSWER YOUR QUESTION?”
“Uh, I was actually going to say, why do you run the day before a marathon instead of just resting? I’m two weeks out from race day.”
“Oh. It’s just a shakeout run. Two miles, tops. Really easy. Get the blood flowing.”
“Okay. Thanks. I’ll give it a try.”
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner. Her second book, Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story, will be released in 2014. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.