Why do I run? Damn, that's a good question. My running journey started about 9-10 years ago. By no means was I committed, as I’d get random boosts of energy every couple weeks and go run 3-4 miles super late at night. Like most fitness experiences, I would eventually tail off and then start back up weeks/months later. I gave this inconsistency little thought, yet prescribed to this cyclical behavior for years.
I began running more consistently when I moved back to NYC. I learned about running crews via social media and thought it would be dope to link with one. One summer afternoon, I received a message from Lisa, a former colleague of mine. She invited me out to hang with Harlem Run and I gave her the typical “yeah, yeah...I’ll check it out.” Fast-forward a half year and I received another invite to an end of year run hosted by HR. I thought to myself, “Why not?” and committed to showing up.
I felt an instant connection to the Harlem Run family. The love was so real -- contagious smiles, endless hugs, and ongoing encouragements before, during, and after the run. I appreciated being a part of something bigger than myself. I loved that this crew created an inclusive space for runners from all walks of life, races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, socioeconomic statuses, etc. Runners coming together for the common goal of building stronger versions of themselves. Runners who were becoming partners in the struggle and establishing lifelines.
I continued running weekly with Harlem Run and signed up for some 5ks and 4 milers. I soon graduated to 10ks and then signed up for my first “big race”- the Brooklyn Half. After completing a couple half marathons, I had another crazy idea...why not sign up for the NYC Marathon lottery? My running crew encouraged this wild ambition and I ended up gaining entry. I simultaneously experienced a rush of excitement and fear. While training for this run, I had the pleasure of learning so much about myself--the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So back to my original question, why do I run? While I initially picked up running to boost my physical health & wellness, my main reason for running has changed. Running has been most impactful towards maintaining my mental health. Most people don't know this, but for years I've struggled with managing my own anxiety, fears, and generally feeling low about life at times. Seeing my Dad walk out on my family at an early age left little room for error as I put immense pressure on myself to succeed. This was a mindset that consumed the majority of my life. For years, I struggled to accept this reality and subconsciously perpetuated my own anxiety and self-doubt.
Hindsight is 20/20. Reflecting on my own story, it's the struggle that deterred me from running more consistently when I was younger. I grew up hating the feeling of struggling...of not being enough, of not meeting expectations, of wanting to be more. I hated failure and maintained high expectations for myself...talk about a recipe for disaster. At times, running even triggered me as it reinforced this idea that I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I would look at those who could run more than 6-8 miles at a time and play the comparing game. No bueno. Sure enough, I would abandon running until I was brave enough to give it another shot.
Most runners I know have a love/hate relationship with their beloved sport. I am no different. I say this because while we love to be challenged, this sport will humble you and unearth a lot of hidden truths about ourselves. Some truths are ones we've been long searching for and others are ones that we actively avoid at all costs. There is beauty in the struggle and without struggle there is no growth. Just like running, I’ve learned to lean into my discomfort and accept myself. With consistent effort, growth is possible. I am capable. I can and I will.
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would run a marathon. Running has not only become one of my main coping strategies, but a proactive part of my self-care. Running helps to enhance some of the biggest passions in my life. I am a better husband, father, son, and educator because I run.