"Hey Rob, why do you run?"
That's a question I get asked a lot when people find out I run half-marathons and the occasional marathon. Some people are just making small-talk, others are genuinely interested, and still others are just being polite. Than of course you have the occasional knuckle-head who always has a wise-@ss comment, such as "I don't drive that far!" or "Man, you're crazy!" or one of my personal favorites: "Why, don't you got nothin' better to do?" And each sarcastic comment is always followed by some sort of sarcastic guffaw. Yuk, yuk, yuk! Just imagine you're best red-neck laugh.
Laugh it up, fuzzball...
So, why do I run such far distances? Especially since I come from a track background? Is it about the "bling?" No. Well, maybe a little bit about the bling. Okay, you got me. Yeah, part of it is about the cool-looking medals you get when you finish. Very colorful, big, and shiny. Like a new car... Is it about the cool tech t-shirts you get? Sometimes. The Baltimore Running Festival is sponsored by Under Armour, so that's usually a nice looking, well-constructed shirt. I was very jealous of the ones I saw during the Frederick Half a couple days ago. And the Baltimore 10-miler held every June also has a sweet race premium. A couple years ago I got a nice, heavy jacket. The next year, I got a nice half-zip warm-up jacket. But for the most part, I can care less about the shirts. Don't get me wrong - the Disney long-sleeve tech shirts are my favorites. But the other ones that I collect that are short-sleeved, I'll wear maybe two or three times before they go into my collection of old jogging clothes.
So why do I run? I run mainly for my health. When I graduated high school, I was 145 pounds and able to run a 5K in the 18-minute range. I wound up being the #4 runner on my Cross Country team. Not bad for a sprinter/jumper. When I graduated college I was around 180 pounds. I discovered something called weight lifting my junior year in college. And of course, when I stopped lifting all that muscle turned to fat. Back in March 2007, I was 205 pounds. And my cholesterol was through the roof. Five years later, I'm down to around 184 pounds as of this past week-end. Not sure about my cholesterol, though. Have to get that checked out in a month or two. More than likely, I'll be back on the Lipitor again. I must have my pizza and chicken wings occasionally.
So the next thing I'm usually asked is "Why don't you just run? Why do you do the races?" Good question. You see, I've tried "just running" in the past between 1993 (when I graduated college) and 2007. I would run for a few weeks or so, and stop for a few years or so. I lacked motivation. I figured if I had something to work towards, i.e. a race or something, it would keep me more motivated. It would keep me honest.
Why half-marathons, 10-milers, and marathons for me? Because of the challenge. With all due respect to the 5K and 10K runners, I'm not trying to slam you guys. But like I said earlier, I ran Cross Country in high school. So the 5K distance to me is pretty much "been there/done that." And the 10K distance, we'd run a couple times a week to train. Again, I'm not trying to belittle the 5K and 10K distances. It's just that the challenge wasn't there for me. The half-marathon and marathon distances offered me a new, unique challenge. I once read somewhere that less than 1% of the entire world's population that has existed since the year 1 A.D. has run a marathon. That's pretty exclusive company. That's something I wanted to be a part of.
You also can't beat the camaraderie and the feelings you experience with yourself and other runners in a marathon. Especially after mile 20 of a full and after mile 10 of a half. Really, it's too hard to explain. It's something you have to experience for yourself.
It's taken me a couple years to realize that I'll never be a fast marathoner. I used to get frustrated when I saw people I went to high school with running faster times than me. I would often say "I used to run circles around that guy/gal." I often wondered what people I've known for over 20 years thought of my times. And that took awhile for me to come to terms with. And you know what? It's okay. I look at the weight I've lost over the past few months and that's my motivation. Heck, my big goal is to finish in the middle of the pack and around the 50th percentile of my age group. If I can do that, I will be happy. But so long as I can maintain my health, that will be enough for me.
My Zip-Ah-Dee-Do-Dah Tip of the Week: It wouldn't be a bad idea to stash some toilet paper in your fanny pack during races. I actually did this for the Frederick Half a couple days ago. You never know what the port-a-pots will be like after the half-way points..