Why Do You Run?

By Katie Choma

Over the two and a half years that I've been running, not once have I been asked that question. Instead, I've heard a multitude of other things that left a lot to be desired.

"Running is stupid."

"You know you're killing your knees, right? It's not even good for you." 

"You don't need to run. You just want to run."

"You're crazy."

At the moment, I am just past halfway through a 16-week training program for my third half marathon. On Saturday, I had a 10 mile long run with the Fleet Feet training group. Up until we all congregated at the store at 6:45 am, the forecast showed that snow would fall in the afternoon. Obviously, we figured we would be fine. By the time my pace group was walking outside to start, snow had started to fall. We all looked at each and shrugged. In our heads, we were already up, dressed, and ready to go. There was no point in delaying the inevitable, and this is Nashville. Snow doesn't really "fall" much here. So, we started. Roughly two miles into the run, it started to sting a little as the snow really started coming down. Roughly five miles into the run, the snow had actually turned everything into a mini winter wonderland. By then, our route had us winding through a park, and boy... it was beautiful with the snow. Surprisingly, none of us were having any major issues sliding. To be honest, the experience was exhilarating at that point. By mile seven point five, I was still feeling strong. Shortly after that, though, I started falling back. Our route had looped back to retracing the steps all of the pace groups after us had taken, and it was slushy. This is where things started to get pretty hard. I struggled through the last two miles, but I still made it under my training pace threshold. When we all got back to the store, we were pretty excited. We felt accomplished. We also felt wet, tired, and hungry. Here's the thing, though. Despite all of that, I spent the next several hours on such an emotional high. I had faced down a challenge within a challenge, and I had conquered the crap out of it. I feel my progress, and that in itself is enough to keep me motivated.

The running journey can be a lot of things for all different types of people. For some people, it's their way to lose weight. For others, it's their way to challenge themselves. For others, it's about releasing pent up frustrations or emotions. For others yet, it's all about the bling (aka medals). And maybe, it's about all of it for some. Running is a beast of a thing to start. Heck, running is a beast of a thing to continue, thrive on, depend on, love, hate, etc. It's not easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy.

Having said all of that, I recognize why there are people who think running is stupid, or not good for you. I respect those people, because they aren't doing what they don't want to do. There's power in that. And honestly, running is pretty much a love or hate, ride or die, kinda thing.

Now, back to my original question. Why do I run?

I run because it is quite literally the only thing keeping me sane.

I run because it is a big picture challenge, and I need to have that in my life. Trust me. I learned the hard way what happens when I don't have that.

I run because it keeps me active and healthy.

I run because... I don't know. I can't explain it. It's just something I've come to love.

I used to hate running. Capital HATE. Through my entire life of sports, I hated it. When I was a rower in college, we had to run five miles around the lake on Saturdays, and I was always dead last by a lot. (Repeat: Capital HATE.) Back in fall 2014, I was just rising back up from a depressed and rough couple of years, and I decided that I wanted to tackle something off my bucket list. Somehow, I landed on "run a half marathon". Don't ask me how. BUT I think what actually inspired me was a friend's post on Facebook. She was raising money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in partnership with her upcoming marathon here in Nashville. I've always loved charities, especially charities with real people and real results. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is the definition of true, genuine charity. Not one child and their family sees a bill from that place. Not one. Did you read that right? Yes, you did. Not one child and their family sees a bill. Childhood cancer is bad enough as it is... but making a family suffer everywhere else in their lives while they try to focus on their child's survival? The worst. Also, guess what? St. Jude has increased the childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to 80%. That is 60%, people. 60% more children who are alive today because St. Jude gets money from people all over the globe to help save them. Anyway, I'll stop advertising now.

When I signed up for the race, I also signed up as a St. Jude Hero. That meant that I would raise money for St. Jude while I train and race. That helped a ton. It inspired me to push through everything and just get it done. By the time I was walking around the Expo and picking up my bib, I was hooked. Heck, I signed up for the Memphis St. Jude half marathon AND the Disney World marathon that weekend.... oops?

Then, when I crossed that finish line, I cried. I was a half marathon finisher. I had tackled a big challenge and succeeded. I had done it for myself and for the kids of St. Jude. Running, in my mind, was my new addiction.

Fast forward to two years later, and I'm seven weeks away from that same half marathon. Since that first one, I've run another half marathon, a marathon, four Ragnar Relays, a 15K, multiple 5K's, and a Warrior Dash. I'm signed up to run two more Ragnar Relays, a 10K, a couple more half marathons, and my first triathlon this year.

Here's the thing. Running has become my way of loving myself. I'm not a fast runner. I'm really not even a good runner. However, I feel confident because I'm constantly working towards bettering myself in the ways I want to be better. I'm stronger. I'm proud of my body. I'm happier. I'm just a better me. And it has changed my entire life.

That is why I run. It may sound stupid to others, but the only thing that matters is that I am happy with it. I like pressing my sore muscles into dense foam and fixing them through that oh-so-infamous saying, "It hurts so good!" I like pounding the pavement and buying the cool running clothes. I like meeting other runners who are in the same boats as me. I like belonging to such a great community. I like hanging up my medals and staring at them while memories float through my mind with a joyful buzz. It's my thing. We all have that thing.

Find yours and chase it. Get out of your comfort zone. Life is too big and bold and there to let it just pass us by. That is why I run.