Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Why I Run. My story

I always hated running. During my senior year of college I attempted to get back into running as a means to drop a few of those college pounds. My first run involved me jogging two laps around a track, huffing and puffing, and then walking the remaining two laps to complete one mile. This was in 2003, and would be my introduction to the world of running.

After I graduated from James Madison University in 2004, I started making a list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime. One of those goals was to complete ONE marathon. It didn’t matter how fast, I just wanted to be able to tell my grandkids one day that I finished one. I didn’t know anyone who had run a marathon, but anyone who could run 26.2 miles had to be an amazing and gifted person(and a total nut job).

So, I began jogging 1 mile, 2 miles, and then 3. After six months I could slowly jog 5 miles without stopping. In the autumn of 2004 I told a friend of mine about my goal of one day running a marathon. He rocked my world when he told me he was training for a 50 mile race. Way to one up me! I didn’t even know races longer than a marathon existed. He said the race was called the JFK 50, and jokingly said I should run it. I still don’t know why to this day, but at that moment I stood there and told my friend "Okay”. I had never ran more than 6 miles, never ran a local 5k, and yet I thought I could finish a 50 mile race? Everyone I told thought it was a total joke. My co-workers thought I might make it ten miles, and even placed bets to see how far I would make it before I quit.

Around the same time, I received a phone call from my father. He told me that my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. She had been through it before, but the tone in my father’s voice made it clear that this was different. The doctors had failed to diagnose the cancer sooner, and it was already aggressively spreading. They gave her three months to live. She was diagnosed in September, so at this rate she would be gone by November. I was supposed to run my 50 mile race on November 22nd. Grandma knew that I had wanted to run a marathon, and a 50 mile race would be an even greater accomplishment. She supported me with everything I did growing up, and my only hope was that she would still be alive when I finished. My motive for running the race completely changed. My dream was that I could finish the race, return home, and show my grandma our finisher’s medal.

Three months passed. My grandmother’s health continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate. It was a heart breaking site, but I made sure to be by her side as much as possible. Once full of vibrant life, she was a shell of the person she was only a few months ago. Through incredible pain and chemotherapy treatments, my grandmother continued to fight. She would not give up on life.
I had no business finishing the JFK 50 miler. I did not have the training, experience, or natural ability to finish that race. I should have never made it to the finish line on that dark, cold night of Nov. 22nd ,2004. What I lacked in physical ability, I made up for in sheer will and determination. As I ran, I knew that my grandmother was clinging to life. I knew that no matter how battered my body was that she was experiencing worse. It was the thought of my grandmother’s endurance that gave me the power to finish. That motivation gave my body what it needed to go the distance.

I returned home and sat by my grandmother’s side and shared with her the story of the amazing race. I told her that she was the one who gave me the power to finish, and I thanked God that she was still alive to be a part of it. Grandma continued to fight two more months until she passed away on January 13th, 2005. She fought like a warrior and lived longer than anyone thought she would. She is what endurance is about.

Why do I run….?

I run to go further than anyone thinks I can. I run to disprove my own doubts about my ability to do great things. When I run, I discover something new about myself. Running is an expression of self, and is the artistic interpretation of physical motion. I am free from the distractions of my job, money,car payments, insurance, and relationships. It clears the mind of pollution and brings things back to the basics of breathing . Running puts life into perspective. It reminds you to let go of all that does not truly matter, and grasp tightly to everything that does. When I run, I feel alive. My senses are triggered in ways they are not when sitting behind a desk, or watching tv. I am back in my primitive state, just a man amongst the woods and trails. This is where we belong, and that is why nature always brings to me a sense of peace and completion. It brings me back to God’s creation, and makes me thankful for everything granted to me.

When I run I remind myself of those who have truly endured. What we endure as runners is never permanent. Our pain is temporary, our wounds will heal, our bodies will recover. By pushing my body to the limit I acknowledge God’s gift of the human body’s ability to do extraordinary things. It’s not about abusing myself, or learning through suffering . It is a celebration of life and the human will. I will always remember how my grandma battled cancer. I know there are soldiers fighting on the front lines to keep our country safe. If running can be a dedication to the strength and spirit of the “common” man, then let it be. We are only common if we allow ourselves to be. Be uncommon.

Let no one ever tell themselves they are average. Know that the last place runner has pushed their body to the same limit as the runner who finished first. Their times may be different, but their effort was the same. The same can be said for any distance. One person’s struggle to finish a 5k is no less a victory than another runners struggle to finish a 100 mile race. Like I said, it is neither the distance, nor speed that counts. It is the heart.

We run to discover extraordinary parts of our being, and it reveals parts of our character that the world has convinced us does not exist.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”- Pre

“God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” – Chariots of Fire


Anonymous said...

Mike- Thank you for sharing your inspired story! I really love your story!!! Please keep on running happy my friend! monica

Runner Tammy said...


What a poignant and inspiring story!


running etc said...

Well said, Mike. Well said.


Kiry said...

Awesome, Mike! Great blog entry! I also love your blog title.

Michael Huff said...


Awesome post and wonderful description of running. God has given us a truly amazing gift in the form of our bodies and we should enjoy it to the fullest, always giving the honor to Him - the one that provides for us. Run Strong and continue to spread the word.
God Bless and Semper Fi,

you said...

I liked the end a lot..." even the last one pushed his body to the limits" aknowledging the nonduality..realising that everything is just perfect.
cheers sweets!