Every time I do it I get tired, out of breath, and sweaty. No, I don’t just get sweaty — I get really sweaty. Sweat drips into my eyes and they burn. It starts accumulating in not-so-fun places. And I can’t do anything about it, because I still have 4 more miles left to run.
Then there’s the pain. Some days it’s a small blister, nothing too serious. Easy to ignore. Other days it’s my ankle. Harder to ignore but I throw on some heavy rap music and drown the pain out. Luckily, I’ve never had any injuries serious enough to make me feel good about sitting myself out. So I continue to lace my shoes up, just like any other day, and head out the door.
I’ve always hated running. My hatred started in middle school gym with the running pacer, a grueling timer that forced everyone to dash across the gym at increasing speeds. I always dropped out first and felt that I was the only one incapable of keeping up with the pacer’s blares. We also had to run a “mile test” every year. My entire gym class always finished before me; I would finally clock in at a grand fourteen minutes.
After the horrors of middle school gym, the next time I ran a mile was senior year of high school. Surprisingly, it was voluntary. I did it right after my dream school admitted me. I had a lot of adrenaline and didn’t know what to do with myself, so I bolted out of my house and ran a full circle around my neighborhood (1.02 miles, to be exact).
Then in college, likely because of the hordes of athletic people everywhere, I finally realized that exercise was important. But I was too intimidated by the gym and all the foreign equipment in it, so out of laziness I decided to run because it was the only exercise I knew how to do.
At first, it sucked. But I immediately appreciated how straightforward, reliable, and unpretentious running was. All I needed to get started was a pair of running shoes and all I needed to keep going was my motivation. No matter how anxious, moody, or exhausted I am, the one thing I can always promise myself is that I’ll finish.
Now, after running 853 miles (according to my Apple Watch), two half-marathons, and a triathlon, I finally appreciate the sport a little more. Every run is fundamentally the same: one foot in front of the other, again and again, and soon I’ll be at my destination. And yet no two runs are alike. I’ve run through the humid suburbs of Houston, the grungy streets of Rome, and the rolling hills of San Francisco. I’ve shot countless snot rockets onto the road, sweated through multiple pairs of shoes, and exhausted several Spotify playlists.
I still think running sucks. I guess the only difference now is that I have a stronger why that pulls me through the experience each time. It’s simple. I don’t run to win medals. I don’t run to set personal records. I run because of my obligation to myself. And I can’t let myself down.