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|Why Do You Run?
Copyright 2005 Mary Desaulniers
It is a simple question from a seven year old that starts me on
a life review. "Why do you run?" she asks when I stop for
lemonade at her make-shift stand, the one sporting a sign that
warms my heart: " lemonaid 10 cents."
But I can't answer her. For several seconds, I sip at the cup
and smile at her sun-freckled nose.
"Why?" she asks again.
"It makes me feel good," I reply, tossing the paper cup into the
garbage pail, glad that I can slip away without saying more. Her
question unsettles me though. The answer I have so glibly thrown
at her does not seem to ring true.
Why DO I run?
I have been a runner for 27 years, yet I am hard pressed to say
exactly what makes me run. My first turn around the local high
school track was motivated by sheer vanity. Having gained over
40 pounds with the birth of my first child, I was determined to
make running the means to an end. I shed the pounds, but found
in the process of doing so a new enthusiasm. Those were heady
late twentysomething days when running seemed more like a cult
than a sport--part of the Brave New World of Fitness that made
me feel like a colt. It made me feel sleek, toned and fit,
filling me with a kind of coltish momentum, as though I were
riding the crest of a fast, furious wave.
Ten years later, I was still running, but the momentum had
slowed to a trot. With a second child and a full-time job, I
found a different reason for running: it was now my way of
slowing down the pace, my refuge from the frenetic rush of
schedules and deadlines. Feeling more like a cow than a horse, I
ran to be still, allowing the rhythm of a body in motion to be a
kind of stabilizing grace. During those years of music lessons,
daycare and baseball practices, running became my still point in
a turning world.
Twelve years later, when my husband fell terminally ill, I ran
to stop the pain from swallowing me whole. I ran against the
pain and through the pain, sometimes weeping, sometimes cursing
as my legs carried me numbly over stones and rubble. When my
husband passed away after an eleven
month battle against an
illness that had the upper hand from the very beginning, I ran
to make peace with the pain. Somehow in the echoes of my falling
steps, I found a rhythm that seemed at one with the sky--stars
suspended in darkness that made brilliant their light. And I
realized that there was not much difference between this world
down here and the one up there: we leave the way we live because
nothing shines brighter than a dying star.
Now in my fifties, I am running more than ever. I can't help but
sense that the question "Why do you run?" seems beside the
point. I cannot live without running; it has become as much a
part of me as breathing is. I run because running has been the
only constant in my life, the only thing that hasn't changed or
has survived despite the change. My children are now grown, my
eldest son the father of two. We have new additions to the
family, even as my husband has moved to a different peace. I
have changed; my hair has greyed and my body has shifted to a
more matronly cast. I forget recent events, but my memories of
the good old days are etched forever in stone. No longer the
colt nor the cow, I have the permanence of time. Change seems no
longer a menacing beast because I know I have been
blessed--blessed with life in whatever form it takes. And I know
I will survive in whatever form I take. I know because there is
nothing in this world--nothing-- that can beat the beauty of a
cool, steady run.
Come to think of it, my answer to the little girl is not quite
so glib after all.
Why do I run?
Because running has made me feel good. It does so still and God
willing, it will make me feel even better in years to come.
About the author:
A runner for 27 years, retired schoolteacher and writer, Mary is
now doing what she loves--running,writing,helping people reclaim
their bodies. Nutrition, exercise, positive vision and
purposeful engagement are the tools used to turn their bodies
into creative selves. You can subscribe to Mary's newsletter by
contacting her at http://www.GreatBodyafter50secrets.com or
visit her at http://www.GreatBodyat50.com