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Why I Run: Nicki Conroy

Nicki, getting it done, step by step and mile by mile.

Nicki Conroy is proof that you can always hang a left at the fork in the road: Headed down an unhealthy path, she decided she would start running after the majority of her six kids were out of the house. We love it when women act--and not just contemplate it or talk endlessly about it. You can catch her in action at Nicki's Nook and at @NickiinNY on Twitter.

When I saw on Twitter that Another Mother Runner was looking for submissions on why mothers run, I immediately replied. I figured that can’t be all that difficult to put in words as people ask me that question all the time. Boy, was I wrong. Explaining something that has become an integral part of my lifestyle is hard. Explaining something that has most likely extended my life and made me more energetic for my six kids is impossible. Explaining why I run pretty much floored me.

A quick top ten list might work I thought. Then I realized that six of the top ten would be my kids. That doesn’t leave much room for other things.

A playlist might do it. All that kept running through my mind was this country song that the refrain goes something like “keep chugging along.” Probably not the message I really want to send about something I love.

Maybe I could write poetry or song lyrics that explain what makes me put my feet to the pavement or trail even in 20-degree weather. But those words might not necessarily be printable on a family friendly site.

So let me take a step back and start with my family medical history. My father died at 71 of heart failure. His heart was the official reason, anyway. In truth, he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. He had had lung cancer and had part of a lobe removed. He had lived a typical life of someone who was an adult in the 1960’s and 70’s. That life was far from healthy, and it caught up to him.

Although my lifestyle as adult is nothing like his, I knew his health—and the heredity that goes with it—were chasing me and would quickly catch up if I didn’t do something. So the big reason I run is that I am trying my damnedest to outrun heredity, and the high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease that goes with it. About two years before my father’s death, he had a few health scares. That Labor Day weekend, I was at a friend’s end of summer party and stepped on her scale.

I started running--if I could call it that at the time--that week.

Nicki, trotting with the turkeys.

While I say I am running away from heredity, I am also running to the future. I want my kids to know that exercise of any kind is lifelong commitment. As most mothers do, I spent the time when they were young living for my kids, but now that all but one are adults—the youngest is a high school senior—I want to be an example of how they can live the rest of their lives I want to model not only values but healthy living by what I do on a daily basis.

I will admit that most of my six think I am crazy when I go out for long runs. Although the two youngest accompanied me to Myrtle Beach for my first marathon and occasionally one will come to a local race to cheer me on, they're not runners. They are glad I enjoy running, though.

The friendship and camaraderie of runners also keeps me hitting the pavement day after day. In the summer, I run with a group that meets in the later evening. This group has become fast friends, even though most are usually ready for the “after run” meeting by the time I finish the route. No one cares about my pace;  they all encourage me to do my best, not theirs. The words of encouragement from someone running twice as fast as I am makes my feet move faster.

Plus, the fact that people will ask me to help them start running when I am far from an expert makes me happy to help. And I can't help but smile when I stand at the finish line and cheer on people from 7 to 70.

On top of the health benefits running gives to me, running gives me friends and happiness. If you read any study out there, people who are happy and who have friends and family around them live longer. That was my reason to start running four years ago and, in a strange way, is what keeps me running.

I now realize, I no longer try to outrun heredity. I run to make my own history.

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