I think it's safe to say I loathe running. I've been running on and off for thirty years. I don't recall ever feeling a "runner's high." It's more like a "runner's nausea" or "Oh my Lord, I can't believe I haven't vomited, yet!" kind of feeling.
I started running long distances when I was in High School. My school (South Lewis Jr-Sr High) was small enough that boys only had two choices for fall sports: Football or Cross Country running. I never felt comfortable playing football. I felt I was too small and frankly, I didn't want to get hit and knocked down to the ground. I wanted to remain active and stay in shape for my sport of choice in the winter: Ski Team. So, I chose Cross Country and suffered for the entire season.
I ran. I was part of a team. I loved my team. I ran with the greatest bunch of people and I am glad to have had this experience with them. My team often carried me both mentally and spiritually. We motivated each other as much as a bunch of teenagers could. But, I loathed running. No matter how great my team was, they couldn't compensate for my hatred of running. Big Sprints, Hills, and distance training. I hated them all. As I think back, I struggle with coming up with what I hated most. I think I hated them all equally.
I showed up. I never skipped practice. I ran in every single meet. I tried. I ran. I never excelled. I was never going to be a world-class runner. I was in the last of the pack in every single race. Yet, I never felt like a loser. My team, my coach, even my school wouldn't let me think that about myself. No one was ever picked on for coming in last. Not once.
I even continued to run as an adult. I have participated in the Richmond 10k. I have a very competitive spirit but I'll never, ever run fast or finish in the top 50%. I must be broken in the head. Why did I keep doing this to myself?
Admittedly, it's a great way to exercise. I get it. My body generally responds well to this type of exercise. My mind, however, rebels against it. I'd love to be "a runner" but I will never, ever, achieve that status. I'll just be a guy who occasionally runs and hates every single step.
Why did I do this?
My High School Cross Country coach, Mr. Cliff Cranker, once wrote a recommendation letter on my behalf. I wish that I had kept a copy of it. It was kind and very motivational. I'll paraphrase and hope to encompass the spirit of his words.
"Garth will never be a fantastic runner. He shows up. He tries his very best. He doesn't hold back. He motivates his teammates. He never gives less than 100% even though he knows his results won't reflect his efforts."
Running saved my life. If I hadn't been running after my dog, Noel, three years ago, I am certain I would have never experienced my first symptom. I was sick but had no idea that I was in danger. I would have never visited the doctor afterwards. I would have discovered my cancer much later, if at all, and it may have been too late for me.
How many of us have a futile battle ahead? How many of us have seemingly insurmountable obstacles? How many of us would rather choose to throw in the towel? It's easier to not try, especially when the odds are stacked against us.
I'm here to say sometimes the results don't matter. Sometimes it's the struggle and how you approach that struggle that matters most. Don't give up before you take that first step. Don't let your mind talk you out of starting, even though you are staring at the impossible.
Sometimes you don't have to win to be successful.
I'm going to go grab my running shoes. I'll see you on the trails.