Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Running Is My Prozac

Today is National Running Day and I started the day off with a run. 

According to Runningday.org’s website, National Running Day, held annually on the first Wednesday in June, is a day when runners everywhere declare their passion for running. Wherever we are and whomever we’re with, we run—fast or slow, alone or with others, all over town or just around the block. It is a coast-to-coast celebration of a sport and activity that’s simple, inexpensive, and fun. It’s the perfect way for long-time runners to reaffirm their love of running and for beginners to kick off a lifetime and life-changing commitment.
I have to say that when I read this statement (I know, I am a geek), it made me so excited. I love to run and, for as long as I can remember, I have always loved to run. When I was a little girl, my pediatrician said my legs were made to run and I just sort of accepted that to be the truth. 
When I was about 17 years old, I got a job at a gym.  I started out working in the nursery – aka Kid’s Club.  As much as I like kids, I wasn’t crazy about being in one room and watching about 20 of them – all various ages – at one time.  I eventually transitioned to working the front desk and that job took me all the way from my senior year in high school to my first two years of college.  I can thank that job for getting me into fitness, but I really gained a passion for running while working there.  Mostly, I would run on the boardwalk in the summer but, during the winter, I would run inside on the treadmill. 
When I went away to college, I tried to keep up with my running -- which can refer to any variety of speeds from jogging to sprinting; But with all the pressure of school and work, I just couldn’t always find the time outside.  The same thing for when I lived in New York City. Mostly, I felt that I was running away from the scary people who wandered the streets of the Big Apple before the sun comes up. 
As is my custom, I love to run first thing in the morning. There is nothing like starting the day with a "runner's high;" it is better than any cup of coffee.
Unlike the East Coast, Southern California affords me the opportunity to almost always run outside – unless it is pouring rain.
When I first moved to Southern California, I started running on The Strand, which is a paved bicycle path that runs along the Pacific Ocean.  I love being able to look out at the ocean -- actually watching dolphins frolic -- and people watch -- yes, there is always that one guy in jean shorts with an iguana around his neck -- while pounding the pavement.  But pretty soon, my sore knees inspired me to start running on the tracks or greenbelt, which is a wood chip path that runs almost 4 miles through my town and the one next to us.
I vacillate between The Strand and the greenbelt based on my needs.  The only thing that really matters is that I am out there moving my body. Running is also also defined in athleticism as gait, which means that -- at some point -- both feet leave the ground.
So, once I get into my rhythm and I have my gait going on, I either zone out while listening to my favorite play list or my mind goes a million miles an hour.  I have planned out  holiday cards, written letters, figured out work dilemmas, and even wrote and memorized my mother and father-in-laws eulogies while running.
Even if I spend the whole time being insane in the membrane and thinking about everything going on in my life -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- I am always a better person for it. Running is my Prozac and helps to balance my moods.
To me, the ultimate workout is going the distance.  I wouldn't call myself an endurance runner but I love to be challenged which is why -- on National Running Day, I am also committing to my seventh half marathon.  Together with my running buddy and all around work out pal -- Rachel -- we will be signing up for our third halfer together.  One thing is for real, it is so much easier to commit to 13.1 miles when you have someone next to you on the tracks. 
I could not have finished my one and only full marathon -- 26.2 miles -- in 2000 without my sister-in-law Diana.  They don't call it a marathon for nothing folks.  There were a few times when I just felt that I couldn't go any further but having Diana there to help propel me forward was essential.  But it was also the people there beside me.  At one point, around mile 20 of the L.A. Marathon, I looked over to see a fellow marathoner.  This man was in great shape, but he was in a wheelchair.  I saw that his hands were bloody over the gloves he wore to protect his hands from working his manual wheel chair.  Even though it was a special sport wheelchair, this man's perseverance and dedication were apparent.  I felt my face burn with tears because I was so inspired by just being in his presence.  It made me realize how lucky I was that I could put one foot in front of the other, because that is what running ...and life... are all about.
So, in Honor of National Running Day, I implore all of you to get out there and get both feet off the ground.

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