Here is a basic reality: if you are the only runner in your family, they don’t ‘get it’. They might be your biggest supporters, cheerleaders, provide encouragement when you’re down, and more … but they really don’t understand why we do this to ourselves.
I KNOW this, but was reminded by a few things my family said this weekend … to be fair, having 20 years of me being a ‘just to stay thin’ runner conditioned some of this. If I did a lot of other activity I wouldn’t run, I never ran on weekends, never raced, and so on. So now that I am a ‘different type of runner’ it can be confusing for my family to try to figure out what running means to me now.
It is up to us as runners to listen to them when we get a little over-the-top … and also to help them understand why we love this sport so much:
1. I Know I Don’t NEED to, But I DO!
As I said, the first 20 years of ‘my running life’, I would not run on weekends, and if we had other ‘calorie burning activities’ I would tend to skip my run. So when Lisa said to me the other day ‘you don’t NEED to run today, you know’ – I replied, I KNOW I don’t … but I want to.
It is a concept that is not easy for non-runners – they ask ‘why?’ … is it fitness? Weight loss? Endurance? Training? Sanity? or WHAT?!? And of course the answer is ‘yes’ – sometimes to all of those questions and other times to one in specific.
2. Racing Isn’t About Running, But It Is
When I sign up for a race, I am committing myself to do my best. I am not a ‘casual racer’, I sign up for very few, so I want to make the most of them, properly assess my fitness and training, and put forth my best run.
Again, this makes sense to an extent – but what can I possibly get from a 10K that I couldn’t get on my 6.25 mile loop?
Unlike running the normal routes, a race makes you start at a specific time, run with others, consider fueling differently, and realize that everything you do is measured and you get an overall assessment at the end – and learn about how you handled that run compared to a bunch of others.
3. Racing Is About Social Aspects, But Also Solo Time
Aside from my brother and the Wineglass Marathon, I have never specifically run with someone else at a race. Sure I see people I know and say hi, but basically I am there for ME. It is about how I go through this challenge, how I handle everything, and what my body delivers.
Yet I also am social and have no problem having a few chats along the way. The biggest one was during my last half-marathon last year, where I was trying to work and even pace, and ended up chatting with a woman for several miles. She had recently lost her daughter and was stuff suffering after-effects of divorce, and running was an escape.
So being at a race allows me to share the experience with others … but the experience is uniquely my own. That strange dichotomy is something non-runners don’t really understand.
4. Racing, Like Running, Is Never ‘Done’.
It seemed to make sense – once I ‘conquered’ running a 5K I would move on, and by the time I did a half- and full-marathon there was no need to ever go back, right?
Each 5K I ran I have improved my time, same for every half- and full-marathon. It is about working hard, improving myself, and doing better all the time.
This is a tough one – the media makes it seem like 5Ks are fun little things and Marathons are ‘serious’. But guess what? They are all races – and we can always learn more about ourselves and our running by challenging ourselves in new races. Which leads me to …
5. I Will Never Stop Wanting to Improve
While I do mostly the same sorts of runs during the week, I am constantly trying new things – new route, new distance, new mini-challenge, and so on. I always want to be better. I mentioned in my weekend post how hills are an evolving challenge for me, and that I have a blast pushing myself more and more with them.
Same for races – I want to keep hitting better and better times, trying new things, and find different ways to push my comfort zone.
6. I am Acutely Aware of the Chance of Injury
Many non-running people only hear about running in a bad way – injuries, attacks, and so on. And since they worry about us, they worry that we might end up hurt.
And there are many ways to get injured – under-fueling, large routine change-ups, too much too fast, and so on. When our families and friends question of we are going to get hurt, they are expressing concern – and that is a good thing. Answer honestly – tell them what you are doing to ensure you are not headed towards injury, then follow through.
Bonus. I Just Really, Really Love to Run
There is a practice in ‘Lean Six Sigma’ called ‘The 5 Whys’ … which is ultimately about getting to the root cause – asking Why once gets you surface info, again gets you deeper and so on until you get to the core.
I feel like there are the ‘5 Whys of Running’ – and I hear them particularly during the winter. Because it is -20F and I could be on a treadmill … or in bed. But I am not.
Because I am a runner, I love running outside, I just completely love running, and there is no sport or activity that can replace it for me. So unless there is active lightning or dangerous ice … you know where you’ll find me. By choice. Every day.
Because I love running … because I am a runner.
So What Words of Wisdom Would YOU Give to the Non-Running Family?