Why do I run? The short, and half-in-jest, answer is so that I can eat ice cream. The real reasons why I run are as follows:
I can do something that only a few people can do. I have been a bit of an underachiever in the professional aspect of my life. In school I was also a good student but not a stellar one. But when I run, I'm automatically part of an elite few. A while back I read that only 3% of the American population can run 3 miles (about 5 km). That's my warm-up! An even smaller percentage can run 10 km (6.2 miles), a half-marathon (13.1 miles/21.1 km), or a full marathon (26.2 miles/42.2 km). I may not be the fastest runner out there, but I'm in the top 3% of the population for something.
Setting a goal and then accomplishing it. Deciding to run a race, training for it, and crossing the finish line on my feet all require setting a goal and doing the necessary planning and training to accomplish it. My former running partner Bill told me what a long race finisher's medal is really all about. A medal proves that I ran a long distance on a particular day. But the real significance of that finisher's medal is that it represents all of the training that went into being able to earn it. The medal really shows that I accomplished a goal that I set for myself. Finishing long races has also given me the confidence to try new things that would have scared me before. If I can run and finish a marathon, I should be able to face the other challenges that life throws my way.
Getting to be outdoors and discovering new places. One of the fun things about long training runs is finding new trails and following them to see where they go. I have found some places off the beaten path and let myself wander on them. When I travel, I like to run because it allows me to see new and different things. One of my favorite running memories was in 1996 on the Greek island of Kalymnos. I went out for an early morning run. As I ran up a hill, I started hearing bells. The sound got louder as I climbed the hill. When I got to the top, there was a large herd of goats, with bells around their necks, and their herders. Running is also an outdoor sport. I would much rather exercise outdoors than inside a gym. I run outside in pretty much all weather conditions except for pouring rain and hail.
Fitness. Since I was a child, I have been a active person. As a child and teenager I did swimming, gymnastics, tree climbing, and lot of general running around outdoors. I was more of a tomboy than a super feminine girl. As an adult, I run, ski, and hike. I have always been physcially fit and can't imagine being unfit. Running keeps me fit and healthy. I'm one of those people who hardly ever gets sick. I believe it's because the running I do has strengthened my immune system.
Running allows me to eat ice cream. Ice cream is a major food group. OK, maybe not. The calories that I burn through running allow me to have some ice cream as an occassional treat. I don't have to feel guilty or worry about gaining weight from a summer ice cream cone because I know that I will burn off the calories on my next training run.