A Running Mission Statement

I often get asked by non-runners, among others, why I run. I find that lately it's been a pretty standard, monotonous response. Something like, "I started about 10 years ago to lose weight and get in shape. Now, I run to stay in shape and explore the outdoors. It's really become an addiction. A sort of meditation and self-therapy."

So, I thought I would write my second blog post on this idea of a mission statement to running and expand on these ideas of what running means to me.

Reason #1: To lose weight and get in shape.

Starting from the beginning, I took up running upon going to college. With no money, I resorted to the school gymnasium. I didn't (and still don't) mind the gym, but it's usually reserved for strength training and rainy days. But you have to understand the school gym at Georgetown was very different then the gym I remembered from Palm Springs, where I was born and raised. I found it VERY intimidating. Imagine if you will, dozens of barbie doll looking girls on elliptical machines, pretending to read there Econ text books while listening to their MP3's, with full blown make-up on, not breaking a sweat. I often wondered why they were even there. Who knows, maybe their roommates kicked them out for a last minute make-out session with the boy du jour? But all I could think was that they didn't need to lose weight.

So, I limited my time in the gym. But not in the cafeteria. The freshman 15 came quickly. So, I took it to the streets. I found instantly that it was much more my speed. No one was there to dishearten me, to make me feel bad about my body or breaking a sweat without mascara on.

Like any habit, good or bad, it took a while to stick. But I worked through the Washington DC weather, snow included, and kept running. That was in 2000.

It wasn't until nearly 4 years later,  faced with graduation and the "real-world" job hunt, that I decided to start training for my first marathon. Sure there were lots of little races up to that point, mostly 5k's and 10k's. But I thought this would be a good culmination of my undergraduate education. Additionally, I figured I would have more time and freedom to train to run a marathon now more than when I graduate and have a full-time job.

For my first marathon I picked the San Diego Rock N Roll. I started training in February for the June race. I followed Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide for Beginners to a tee. My goal was a 4 hour race. About 6 weeks before the race, right around the time I helped my then roommate Jessie complete her first marathon, the New Jersey Shore (picture in previous post), my right shin was causing me some discomfort. I chalked it up to shin splints and vowed to stretch more and ice.

Nearly a month later, now only a few weeks before the race, I was in so much pain I ended up walking home from a run in tears. Finally forced, I made an appointment to see a doctor. After x-rays, he confirmed I had a stress fracture on my right shin. I left with a hefty prescription of pain killers and a blow to my ego. I was out of the first big race I signed up for before it even began.

Running took a back seat for a while as I rested in recovery. Four months later, I tried hitting the pavement again. It was slow going getting back into the groove again. The sting of registering for my first marathon and not being able to complete it was a huge blow. It took me five more years until I finally mustered the courage and motivation to train for another "first" marathon. The same marathon. I decided I could not let it defeat me. (More on the 2009 San Diego Rock N Roll marathon in future posts).

Reason #2: It's free therapy!

When I first moved to Los Angeles in 2005 I was knocked on my feet. It was nothing like Washington DC and definitely nothing like Palm Springs. It took me months to find a job to fit around my art school schedule. When I did it was bartending at a great place across the street from Maxfields on Melrose. I was so busy that the little free time I had I found myself just wanting to be outside. So, I ran to clear my mind. It was my time to feel free in a very tightly wound part of my life.

It's my way of self-medicating. I am talking about endorphins here. Addictive. Little. Endorphins. And I don't have doctor or pharmacist co-pays.

Now, I am learning to leave the iShuffle at home and meditate on my runs.

Reason #3: It's great sight-seeing!

And being in a new city I needed to explore anyways, I started running every chance I got. It's a great way to get to know a city. I think I have run nearly every part of Los Angeles (and DC, among many other cities). I started in Koreatown. Moved to Beverly Hills. And now to Santa Monica. And after doing last years LA Marathon, I can say I have run my way from Dogers Stadium home to the Santa Monica Pier. Amazing! I love it.

Reason #4: It's FREE!

It was back on college that I realized that I needed something to do that would burn calories and not cost a lot of money I didn't have. Something with out a lot of equipment like cycling, swimming or rowing or monthly fees or membership costs.  To run all you really need is a pair of shoes.

Of course, the more I am hooked on running it's gotten more expensive, with exciting gadgets like my new Garmin 405CX I got for Christmas (post on that in the future as well. I eagerly used it for the first time today! Yey!).

Reason #5: It inspires!

I am a full-time web designer. And when I come come I am usually doing freelance graphic design work or looking for more great clients.

I must sit staring at a computer screen nearly 12-14 hours a day on average. My runs offer a great dose of inspiration. A break from sitting indoors. Thankfully, the last two full-time design jobs I have had, my bosses have allowed and encouraged me to run on my lunch. So, 2-3 days a week I get to get away from my desk and get outside for an hour and meditate. I often find that the energy that the run and being outdoors gives me is unbelievable and undeniable. I wish I could bottle it up and take it with me all day everyday. Most days the inspiration does linger a while after the run ends.

So, that's it! Yvonne's mission statement for running. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.