Why I Hate Running But Love Races

BOMF 5 Miler 2017, 2018
     Today my brother and I did the Back on My Feet 5 Miler for the second time in two years and it was a lot of fun. When my alarm went off at 6 this morning I can't say I was psyched to be alive, but as I hurried down the steps in my dorm to meet my brother at his car outside, I was struck by how beautiful the sunrise was. The sky was dark blue with just a hint of bright orange at the edge. Sunrises make a lot of things worth it. As soon as I got outside though, I was brought back down to reality. It was 30 degrees out and the wind was brutal. I rushed into my brother's heated car and we drove to Eastern State Penitentiary, which is about half a mile from the start line at the art museum. We stretched, froze our butts off, and by 7:30 we were setting off with 949 other people. TJ's knee started hurting him within a minute of the start, and by mile one he had to stop at the port-a-potties to pee. We weren't off to a good start, but TJ was determined to not walk, in spite of his knee. He said it felt better if he ran fast, so after the potty break, we booked it up the longest hill in Philly. There was a straight stretch for a bit as we passed the Please Touch Museum, and then we were flying down the steepest hill in Philly (there are only two hills in Philadelphia, and we did both within five minutes of each other. I exaggerate, but only slightly). By this point, TJ's knee was feeling fine and we had a game plan: book it down the hill, then slow down for the third mile so we could finish the fourth (and last) mile strong. Mile 3 went fine, and then the fourth mile hit...the last quarter mile was the worst and I spent it rotating my chants between "I'm dying", "I'm going to die", "We can do it!", and "I'm going to puke". And my bro was just like, "Let's just pass this bald guy in the orange. That's our goal." 
     Well, we passed the bald dude and I didn't die or puke. We did it! And we did it faster than last year, knee pain, bathroom break, and all! And what's more, I haven't run five miles since that same race 365 days ago, so I was even more proud of that. Overall, I think we did pretty dang good. No, we didn't run the race at a 4:55 min/mile pace like the winner, but we beat our own time, and that's the cool thing about running. It's about improving yourself and trying your best and realizing that someone else is always going to be better than you and that's 100% okay.
     While I hate running (it's painful, takes too much time, and a lot of the time it's just plain boring), I love races because even when you get there and you don't want to be there because it's freezing cold (or burning hot) and you're up entirely too early on a weekend, you run anyway because you paid to do it, and by the sheer fact that you force yourself to do this thing that you don't want to do, you wind up getting a certain pay-off.  You feel all that more accomplished at the end of it, and there's 948 other people there who are doing the exact same thing as you, and that's encouragement in itself. Plus, runners in general (when they're not trying to beat you or compare times with you or rub it in your face how fit and fast they are) are super supportive. A lot of the runners who finished early came back and cheered on the rest of the runners on the course. It's nice to feel a sense of community in a sport that is generally very solitary. 
     I have no hopes or aspirations of ever being a marathoner or any such nonsense, but I do enjoy doing these little races once or twice a year, just to keep me motivated and in shape, even when what I want to do most is stay in bed. And I've found that when I run even when I don't want to, I feel so much better afterwards. I feel more awake, less stressed, and generally in a better mood. There's been all kinds of research about the benefits of exercise for the brain, and I can attest that it's true. No, I'm not constantly happy just because I run. I don't ace every test I take because I run. But overall, the benefits outweigh all the things I hate about running.
     One last thing I have to say is that running seriously is a sport for everyone. You don't need any equipment, just your body. You don't have to be fast. Yes, the winner ran at a 4:55 pace, but the loser ran at a 16 minute pace and guess what? He crossed the exact same finish line. It doesn't matter if you walk more than you run, or if someone can walk faster than you run. I have no doubt that Mr. 4:55 can speed walk faster than I can run. But I can cross the same finish line as him! And even if you don't make it across the line, there's something to be said for trying. So if you have even the faintest desire to try running, my suggestion is to sign up for a race about 4-6 months from now, start running or walking once, twice, three times a week and just do it! 

-SE Wagner


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