Monday, October 29, 2012

Write For Betsy Run Health

Every time I sit down to write a full blog post about my running, I make it through three or four drafts before giving up.  Either I seem naive or come off as arrogant - I don't know why, but everything I try to put into words sounds like something I'd hate to read on another blog.  So then I head over to Megan, where she writes what I want to say exactly as I wish I could say it.  Who better to guest post on running?  Thanks, friend!

me, Mom, Jen, and Megan; Run for Roses 5k, June 2012

The always elegant Betsy asked me to do a guest post for her, and I was simultaneously honored and terrified.  What in the world was I going to write about?  Clearly, no one wants to know about my clothing choices (holey sweatpants, tank top, hair in messy topknot), and I've never been to England (unless you count the airport, which I don't).  So I asked her what she wanted me to write about.  I don't remember the response, but scribbled in my "do these things" notebook in pink ink is the phrase "write for betsy run health."  Yes, I do take good notes.

You can read on my blog why I started running and the obstacles I've faced, so I won't repeat that here.  But I would like to talk about what I've learned by taking up running.

I am not what the average person would think of as the typical runner.  I look nothing like those amazing athletes you saw on the Olympics.  I'm short and curvy.  I'm not fast.  But I'm still a runner.  I grew up in a small town and went to a super small grade school and junior high.  There were 12 girls in my 8th grade graduating class.  That meant tons of opportunity to play sports, because hey, they needed to fill out the teams.  I played volleyball and softball.  I was a cheerleader.  I wasn't particularly good at any of these things.  In fact, I was fairly terrible (though I was a good cheerleading base because if nothing else, I am solid).  I'm pretty sure that my batting average one season was .000.  I'm not coordinated whatsoever, so sports really aren't my thing, and team sports are the worst because I hate to let others down.  Thankfully, I left them behind once I got to high school.  I was lucky to live in a state where, as a member of the marching band, I didn't have to take any PE classes.  I did have to take them in college, but I chose rotations that were clearly not team-sport oriented  - Handball, Racquetball (both chosen due to the gym's proximity to my dorm), Latin Ballroom, Fencing, and something else that I can't remember.

But with the exception of the random ballroom class, all of those things had one thing in common - winning and losing.  And when you lose 99% of the time, it kind of stops being fun.  I know, I know, it's not about whether you win or lose, it's about how you play the game.  But it's nice to win occasionally.  Or to at least have a chance at winning.

When I discovered running, though, it was like my perspective shifted.  Yes, people do still "win" in races, but there are no real losers.  Winning doesn't depend on how others perform.  It's all about you and your personal performance.  When I ran my personal best half marathon, the official winner of the race had probably already gone home and showered by the time I finished.  But that doesn't matter.  I ran an amazing race, and I'm so proud of that day.  I hope to improve my half marathon time sometime next year.  And it doesn't matter how anyone else in the race does - I only have to worry about myself.

The best part?  Running can still be a team sport!  One of the greatest things about team sports is the camaraderie, having people to cheer for you and commiserate with you when things don't go as planned.  You can still have that group of friends you run with who are there for you no matter what the outcome.  But you don't have to worry about holding them back (as I always did).  I run with friends who are much faster than me.  I run with friends who are slower than me.  We don't often run the races "together," but we meet up before and after the race and celebrate everyone's accomplishments.  Sometimes I run races "alone," and when I get home, my team experience happens online when I share my race with friends.

I wish I could share this knowledge with young me and show myself that I can go out and be active and healthy and not have to worry about losing all the time or holding the team back.  I avoided most athletic pursuits for years because I was embarrassed about how terrible I was at everything.  I went to the gym and hit the elliptical or the bike, but that was it.  I wasn't setting goals for myself, and the team atmosphere was completely gone.  I grew up in a household where my mother kicked us out of the house and told us to go play outside, so I did get some physical activity, but were I a kid of today, I would probably be holed up in the house with a book or a computer.  

I love programs (like Girls on the Run) that take kids out and teach them just how empowering running truly can be.  I love running into nervous new runners at races and seeing their excitement when they finally cross that finish line.  There is nothing better than watching the end of the race when people are finishing, particularly those in the back of the pack, and seeing the looks of elation on their faces.  It's a great feeling that I think everyone should get to experience.

And it's not just about racing.  Even weekend training runs can be empowering and cathartic all at the same time.  It's a chance to focus on me.  A chance to clear my head.  A chance to push myself to see just what I can do.  And those endorphins?  Best drug ever.

If you had told me ten years ago that I would be writing a blog post talking about the power of running, I would have called you crazy.  But I have learned so much as a runner.  I have learned that my body can do things that I never thought it could.  I have experienced the feeling of crossing the finish line of a race I wasn't sure I could finish.  I have felt the euphoria of a good run (and the pain of a bad run) and the stress relief that every run brings.  It has made me a healthier and happier person and it is something that I want to share with everyone.


  1. This might be the first "running" post that I, a non-runner, don't want to roll my eyes over. The whole "I'm a runner" holier-than-thou that a lot of running posts take is just so distasteful that it leaves a niggling in my head wondering if I were to meet the blogger in real life, would she think I'm a lazy piece of crap because I don't run? Now I'm headed over to Megan's blog, to get to know this girl who speaks in self-confidence and mental empowerment as opposed to "it's not that hard"s and "I used to be so fat now I'm a size 00"... thanks, Betsy!
    Oh, and girl. How tall are you?!?!?

  2. I know. all of the running posts I try to write sound like that, but Megan's got the magic touch. she's just as real to run with, too!

    AND SHUSH. I'm 5'11" and totally normal. I just need to stop hanging out with shrimpies :P

  3. Love this. I'm all about someone's "background story" when it comes to running. Someone who loves what they do regardless of everything the world may throw at them? Yes please!

    I like you, Megan. Your words just made me happy

  4. Hey, it's pure jealousy! I'm 5'5", and would do nearly anything for another three inches. I'm just glad to know I'll be seething with short-person envy before we actually meet in person ;)

  5. Aww, thank you! I appreciate it. I freely admit that I am a lazy slug, but I feel so much better about those slug days when I go out for regular runs. And if anyone tells you it's not that hard - they're lying. It IS hard. It just gets easier.


I love reading your thoughts and suggestions! Please do leave a comment so we can get to know each other better.