Why I Run: Call for Submissions

I promise we'll bring back Hump Day Giveaways soon--like next week-- after we iron out a few kinks. In the meantime, we want to hear more of your stories; Lord knows, you've heard enough of ours.

We're looking for submissions for the Why I Run series: essays that can be fun, serious, heartfelt, lightweight--or any combination thereof--about why you lace up regularly. We've run this popular feature twice, and will queue it up again at some point this summer. (Not being intentionally murky; just haven't planned that far ahead yet.)

A few guidelines: please limit your entry to no more than 600 words, and please know that we may edit it--and possibly ask for revisions from you. But that's the only guideline: you can write a top ten list, a poem, a Q+A, an essay; whatever you'd like. We'd love to have submissions by May 15th; e-mail us at runmother [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or with your entry.

To give you an idea of what we're looking for, here's an entry from our first series.

Although I–Dimity–have only run with Amanda Upson, a Denverite and mother of two, once, it was one of the best runs of my life. We chatted for miles and connected on many levels. She doesn’t have a blog. Yet. Encourage to get going on one, would you?

When I first read Dimity’s email asking if I’d write a guest post about why I run, I ignored it 37 times before collapsing into bed. I write professionally, but, as an attorney, the subject matter revolves safely around employment contracts and legal arguments. Dimity knows I dream of writing non-legal material, but my insecurities are safer buried in the dream, put at the end of the to-do list, and otherwise addressed after I clean the grime out of the underside of the kitchen sink and organize my drawer of spandex. I relegate my non-legal writing to personal email correspondence, overly developed preschool applications, and Wednesday comments posted in the hopes of winning free running gear.

Amanda, taking it home at the rock 'n' roll Vegas Marathon before it went all strip-at-night.

The thought of someone outside of a preschool reading my words terrifies me to the point I want to run (away), but I got that email at night and I run in the morning. So that wasn’t an option. My mind was manic and anxious spewing the most astounding, genius, witty ideas that I thankfully will never remember. I shut my brain down with a heavy dose of Lunesta and let the freaky, drug-assisted dreams take over. I spent that night vividly sprinting hurdles in glass cleats trying to catch a buff, post-werewolf-birth Tina Fey. My mind didn’t relent until my Garmin beeped a mile into my run the next morning.

During the run, like all of my runs, there’s no second-guessing, no fear, and no insecurity. Four miles of fear suppression and a pep talk from Eminem later, I emailed Dimity to say I’d write … something.

I stopped working to stay at home with the kids when my husband’s travel schedule forced him to sleep soundly out of town most of the week. Leaving work and every sense of how I had defined myself (as an attorney, an achiever, and a person who wore clean clothes) left me in a deep, dark place with only the company of a toddler and an infant. While I enjoyed the games of dead princess and rocket pirate ship, for the first time in my life, I had no measurable goals and no sense of purpose outside of surviving the daily routine. I needed a goal that was challenging, but obtainable, and something I could do wearing spandex with my kids in tow.

I started to run.

I pushed the BOB dualie at a blistering 13-minute pace for 30 seconds, and then I walked for 30 seconds. I talked to Jesus, my dead grandmother, Tina Fey, and the voices in my head. But, for the first time in years, I did not talk to my kids. My 3-year-old accepted that and settled in for previously unattainable quiet time. Because I was not answering relentless questions about rocket fuel and distance between planets, I could hear myself think. The 30-second walk breaks gradually disappeared, and I started building mileage and craving those runs. After two years sequestered from adult interaction, I ditched the BOB and joined a running group. I met those ladies on weekend mornings to socialize and run. As they all out-paced me, I was left with a great view and silence in which to have real, deep, important thoughts.

At some point during my runs, true magic happened. And, that’s why I lace those Sauconys at 5:30 a.m. regardless of the temperature, regardless of how much is going on in our lives, how little sleep I got, or how much I need to be finalizing a document. I am not sure if it’s physiological, psychological, or photochemical, but in engaging in the process of running, I somehow chased my former self back into my life.

Running returned to me the practice of goal setting and gave me time to be alone with those real, deep, important thoughts. With each additional mile, those thoughts formulated into ideas. I should run a marathon and go on a girls’ weekend and buy some whoopee cushions. The ideas led to plans. A girls’ weekend for the Vegas marathon and the purchase of whoopee cushions in bulk. The plans ultimately turned into realities. The Las Vegas 2010 Marathon Girls’ Weekend and Starbucks April Fool’s Day 2011 Project Whoopee Cushion.

I returned to work on a part-time basis, and, after three half-marathons and a full, I finally came to terms with the fact that I also like to write sentences that don’t involve burden shifting or damages. Now that I’ve discovered that, I’ve got to concoct The Ultimate Plan For the Rest of My Life. It’s in the works. I just need a few more runs to figure it out.

18 responses to “Why I Run: Call for Submissions

  1. Love Amanda’s submission!!!!! I totally identify with it. My husband and I both had fairly high-profile jobs in NYC, and I had to quit mine when I was 8 months pregnant due to my husband accepting a promotion and relocating us to Houston. I was able to jog again 5 weeks after delivery, and ran my first half marathon 7 weeks after that. Amanda states, much more eloquently than I have been able to, why running is so important to me: it’s something I’ve always done well, it’s a link to my former (pre-mommy) self, and it gives me goals (but not the stress attached to my former job), which in turn keep me motivated and fulfilled (though I thought I loved my job, it wasn’t really all that fulfilling). I really think I have the perfect life right now- I play with my beautiful daughter all day long then hand her to her dad so I can train in the evenings. However, if I wasn’t running, I would probably view my day in a much more negative light!

  2. Because I just figured out that I still can, even after 50 years of not even trying. A lot of those last 5 decades has been BIC HOK TAM (bottom in chair, hands on keyboard, typing away madly). Not exactly aerobic.

    When I think of running, two images come to mind. The first involves racing around the empty lots in a new subdivision in Boulder, Colorado with a handful of other kids, all enjoying the freedom of a hot summer afternoon. In my hand are an ample supply of pointed weed seeds with fuzzy, curly ends, that I stripped from their stem with a single, upward motion, barely breaking stride. My goal is to see if I can plant these in the back of one of my friends’ necks before I get the same treatment. I almost always win. This may have more to do with the casual chivalry of boys back in the sixties than with my running or firing skill. All the same, the thrill of nailing a good hit was so delightful that I hardly realized I was running.

    The only thing that could stop me was tripping over some unseen obstacle and coming down hard. A little stunned, I would limp back to the house with blood flowing from my knees to my ankles. Laughing, Dad would cut the top off another pair of socks to use as bandages.

    “You’ll never be Miss America with those knees,” Mom would complain. I never felt a bit of pain, only satisfaction at my victories.

    The other picture is of me on a track in an outdoor gym class, standing next to a visibly disappointed teacher. My classmates and I are all dressed in the same marine blue uniforms that snap up the front, one-piece rompers with bloomers under shorts that reach modestly to mid-thigh. The popular girls had run theirs through the wash with bleach, achieving a faded look that predated the same color of jeans by a couple of decades. None of that mattered to me on that day. All I cared about was not throwing up, passing out, or otherwise embarrassing myself. Bad enough that I had straggled in as one of the last runners without anything else adding to my humiliation. It has been fifty years since that day on the track and like most adults, I find that single moments of childhood failure lose absolutely none of their power to sting over time.

    When my daughter Beth and I were talking about her desire to take part in the Nike Women’s half marathon, amazingly enough it was the first of those two images that lit up in my mind. Mingling with 20,000 other nervous runners at the starting line in San Francisco, waiting for the signal to go – that sounded fun! Forget the fact that I couldn’t even run a quarter mile without turning beet red, or that nearly every job and hobby I’ve had as an adult involved sitting in a chair. I asked Beth if she really thought I could do this.

    Without hesitating, she looked me in the eye and said, “Yes. Look, Mom, you’re sixty years old and you have great knees. I think it’s time you tried to wear them out. Besides, in six and a half hours, you could walk a half marathon.”

    So my second reason to run, besides simply that I can, is because I am also remembering that it can be fun! (Seriously, a chocolate mile? How cool is that?) One of the mothers in our NWM group recommended your books and podcasts and they have been very encouraging. I’m up to 3 miles now of walking and running and absolutely loving it!

  3. I run… to feel the breeze against my face,
    To wave to my neighbors,
    To see the family of ospreys nesting down the road.

    I run… to hear my footsteps quicken against the pavement,
    To show my child how to work toward a goal,
    To burn off last night’s cupcake.

    I run… to clear my mind,
    To get away from pressure and stress,
    To find a happy place inside.

    I run… to keep a healthy heart,
    To beat last month’s pace,
    To make a difference in someone else’s life.

    I run… to see shiny medals around my neck,
    To feel a deep, inner sense of pride,
    To feel pain and joy and exhaustion and know that I am alive.

    I run…
    Because I can.

  4. Gosh,running keeps me healthy…it’s my promise to myself, my time to myself to think & muse. Studies show your cancer risks can be greatly reduced if you make healhty lifestyle choices. Moreover, running is a great opportunity to grab quick chats with girlfriends as we run together. What we smilingly say…”My heart is happy, my body is healthy, I look fabuuuuulous!”, as we climb the next hill. Plus, as a mom of 2-teens(my son is celebrating his 19th birthday today), I can say with super satisfaction that recently (end March),completed my 1st half marathon – what a training journey & personal growth experience. And so the story continues… more running, cross-training & girlfriends chats. Stay healthy!

  5. I loved the part about talking to Jesus and your dead grandmother-I do the same thing! Thanks for sharing really enjoyed reading this…keep writing!

  6. Nearly two years ago I began running for weight management. I ran 2 miles and it felt like a huge accomplishment. During one of my neighborhood runs I passed one of my friends running. We made a date to run the next day. We recruited another friend to join us. The three of us have been running ever since. They’ve convinced me to run a 10 K, then a half Marathon. We are known in the neighborhood as “the 3 runners”. As soon as our kids get on the bus we take off. The relationship with these women have kept me running. I feel out of the loop, out of the know if I miss a day. As time has passed, I miss the running when we take a day off. Now, we are training for our 1st Marathon (Sunburst at Notre Dame, IN) I could not have made it thru the ups and downs of training without these women! Friendship and running, what could be better?

  7. When I run, I am me in all of my glory. I am obviously healthier and more fit, but also calmer, gentler, more patient, more creative. When I run, I am the me I am truly meant to be.

  8. In an effort to drop a few pounds I would walk to and from work (5 miles round trip). I was at a party and we were talking about exercise and a friend said “If you can walk it, you can run it”.

    From those words, my new favorite and most crucial hobby was born. Losing weight and being more fit (or as I like to say “training for menopause”)is now the least of why I run.

    With only one of my three boys left at home, my two aging and very needy parents moved in with us. Quite frankly, I now run for my sanity. My days are filled with working full time, heading home throughout the day to get the folks out of bed, clean up the soiled laundry (usually 3 loads), pick up someone who may have fallen, do the market, pharmacy and doctor visit runs, get dinner for 5 on the table by 6, remake the beds and show my husband just how much I adore him – Running keeps me sane.

    It’s all MINE! No one can have a piece of it. For half an hour or a whole hour or two hours, I have nothing but music in my ears and miles of smiles to do nothing but decompress, reorganize, take in the scenery and chase that high. I run because I can. (and because I get to!)

  9. I run because it helps me feel strong from my toes up. It clears my head and as my legs chase down the miles the depression and anxiety that plagues me is left behind. Running gives me a purpose all my own, just for me, which in turn makes me a better wife, mother and friend. I run because running it shows me that I can accomplish things that I never thought I could. I also run because there is so much cute running gear, and because it has bought so many wonderful women into my life! I run because, through running in races, I am able to support causes that are important to me. There a a zillion reasons why I run! I guess the bottom line is that running has made me a stronger, better, happier person (and it increases my sex drive, so there’s that……).

  10. That was so fun to read! I would enjoy reading whatever you wrote, although I’d prefer if it was about running instead of employee contracts!

  11. Truly I run for me and me alone. I know that doesn’t seem like a reason, and it may look selfish, but it is THE ONLY thing I do that’s just for me. I have 4 kids and a hubby, work full time teaching fourth grade, and am crazy busy for everyone else all the time. Running is ALL MINE and I’m glad.

  12. I run because someone once told me I wasn’t good at it. I run because after walking 60 miles in 3 days, I wanted a new challenge. I run for those who can’t. It makes me feel strong, powerful, and immortal!

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