Why Run?

I follow several fitness and running sites on Facebook, and they often ask why runners run.  It seems that each time they ask, I could give a different answer.  And sometimes I have no idea why I continue to run – those are the days running isn’t going so well.  There are so many reasons to run, or to participate in whatever type of exercise one prefers.  Some reasons are obvious; some are pleasantly surprising.  Since running is my exercise of choice, followed closely by Zumba, I decided to compile a list to not only encourage others to jump in that develop some type of work-out regimine, but also to try to motivate myself to keep on moving.

  • Obviously, running is good for my physical well-being.  It is an excellent cardio workout; it builds muscle; and it increases endurance.  I had proof of this when I had an EKG last year before having surgery.  The technician, upon reading my results, asked if I was a runner.  She said my heartrate is low, which is typical of runners.  Admittedly, I was quite proud that someone could tell I was a runner!
  • Running is excellent for my mental well-being.  I am rarely in a bad mood, and if I am, I can go for a run and return with a whole new outlook.  When I have had a stressful day at school, I know that a run will help relieve my stress.  I feel so refreshed after a run, even if it is just a short run.
  • Running builds confidence.  Knowing that at my age (45) I can run 13.1 miles, helps me believe that I can do anything I put my mind to.  We all suffer from self-doubt at some point, but setting goals and reaching them can encourage a person to press on during those moments of doubt.
  • Running is an efficient way to burn calories.  When I was trying to lose weight a couple years ago, I first tried walking.  I lost nothing.  Once I began to run, I was able to shed those unwanted pounds.  I figure I burn about 100 calories for every mile I run.  If I run an average of 20-25 miles a week, that’s 2000-2500 calories!
  • Running makes me appreciate my surroundings.  We are blessed to live in  a beautiful small town, and often I take that for granted.  When I get out and run, I notice the beauty of our town.  I have watched as Sam repaints the mural on the floodwall; I have enjoyed our greenways; I watch as winter turns to spring and the town seems to come alive.  I get to experience the outdoors during every season when not too long ago I spent much of my time indoors.  I have found that I enjoy each season.  I love running along the Might Ohio River and taking in the vastness of the water.  I smile when I hear students yelling, “Hi, Mrs. Stath!” as I run by their homes, and I hope that my running inspires them to remain active.
  • Running has brought me new friends, and strengthened the relationships I had with old friends.  Runners just understand one another, so we tend to stick together.  We understand the need to run, and how depressing it is when we can’t run.  We don’t mind when our friends are sweaty, smelly, and make-up free.  My running friends don’t get grossed out when I spit; I would never spit in front of my non-running friends.  When we run, we talk about everything, and we know it will never go any further.  We support one another; we push one another; we love one another.
  • Running mirrors life.  We have uphill battles that take every ounce of strength we can muster up, and we have days that we are running downhill and things seem to be going our way.  Some days running is easy and fun; some days it sucks.  There are days I feel amazing after a run, and days I can’t get to the bathroom fast enough.  Life really is a marathon.  We are in it for the long haul if we are lucky.  We have to set goals and work toward making life fulfilling.  I believe that God provides for us and gives us talents and abilities, but I also believe that we have to work our butts off to make those talents and abilities work for us.  Just as I have to constantly work with my abilities at work and in my home, I also have to work with my [limited] abilities when I run.  Running makes me live life better.
  • Running reminds me that I am not always in control.  There are days when I head to town for a run, and I am mentally prepared for a great long run.  Then I start to run, and my body does not cooperate.  My legs feel like I am running in mud, my breathing is labored, and I just can’t run.  While it is completely frustrating, I cannot control it.  Sometimes I can talk my way through those first couple of miles, and sometimes I just have to give in and hope for a better run next time.  We have to accept that not every run – or every day – is going to be perfect, and we have to start fresh the next day.
  • I run because I can.  Sometimes I forget what a blessing it is to be able to run, and then a conversation or a story reminds me that I am extremely fortunate that my legs will carry me through many miles.  Today I had a conversation with a friend whose husband is on the top of the list to receive a lung transplant.  Every day is a struggle.  I am sure that he would give just about anything to be able to get out and walk, let alone run.  Tomorrow when I run, I will be thinking of this couple, and I will appreciate each step I take.

Running has changed my life.  I am healthier, happier, and more productive.  When I begin to question my ability to keep running, someone thanks me for inspiring him or her to run or to get back into running, and I know I can’t give up.  If I can help even one person become healthier, the miles I put in are worth it!  So, why run?  Why not run?

For My Father

My father is the handsome man on the left in the second row. The handsome man in the front is my Uncle Dave, who also died much too young. My mother is partially hidden, the woman on the far right in the back row.

On this Father’s Day, I cannot help but think of loss.  My father, Rex Greenland, died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 42; I was seven.  Though I was young and have few memories of my dad, I have many memories of the day he died.  The night before, my sister, Bobbi, had graduated from high school.   After the ceremony, I went to spend the night with my grandmother because we were moving the next day, and I would only be in the way.  We were moving from Hammond, Indiana to Hobart, Indiana, which is about 30 minutes away.  My father owned a company in Hobart, The R.W. Greenland Co; the business made rock that goes in the bottom of aquariums.

On Saturday morning, the phone rang at Grandma’s house.  I followed her to the phone, and could tell that something was wrong.  Really wrong.  Upon replacing the phone, Grandma said, “Honey, lay across the bed and cry.  Your daddy just died.”  The rest of the day was a whirlwind of activity.  Our neighbors and people from our church jumped in and helped us finish moving as we tried to process what had happened.  That day would change the course of our lives.

As an adult, I still miss my father terribly.  I miss having a father.  When I see daughters with their dads, I feel that pang of jealousy.  At times, I have had to leave the room when television shows or movies depicting a father’s death are on.

I often wonder what our lives would be like had he lived.  What career would I have chosen?  Would his business have grown and been successful?  At every meaningful event in my life, I wish my dad were there to share the moment with me.  Would he be proud of me?  When I have made poor choices or failed at something, I wonder if he would be disappointed, or supportive and encouraging.  What kind of grandfather would he be?

I have had so many questions for my dad over the years, and have yearned for his advice.  When my friend and I opened a business several years ago, I grieved at not having my dad to go to for business advice.  I have spent a lot of time wondering what about me is like my father.  Do I get my ambition from him?  Do I get my work ethic from him?  Am I somehow carrying on his legacy?

I know, without a doubt, that my father is present in my life.  He was a wonderful musician, even composing his own music.  My youngest daughter, Addison, inherited his musical ability.  She has taught herself to play the piano, and as I hear her play, I know my father, without ever having known her, has touched her.   It is such a blessing to hear her working to play songs written by my father; I know he is proud as his music is played by his granddaughter all these years later.

I turned 42 three years ago.  The year prior to that particular birthday, I was filled with dread.  Almost my entire life, all I had associated with the number 42 was my dad’s death.  I was quickly becoming depressed, and knew that I needed to find a better way to handle turning 42.  My husband and I had been talking about exercising, and several of my friends had begun to run.  I hated running.  Even when I was a kid I hated running.  I envied runners as I passed them on the road, but I knew I could never be one of them.  Then my husband, who has an artificial knee and is 16 years my senior, began to run.  Crap.  What excuse did I have?  For my 42nd birthday, I began to run.  It was slow going at first.  I would run 1/4 mile, and then walk.  Gradually I worked my way up to running a mile without stopping; that was a huge accomplishment for this anti-exercise-junk-food-eating mom.  As the months went on, rather than focus on my loss, I focused on keeping my own heart healthy (my dad’s brothers also died very young of heart-related problems), and on living life to its fullest.  We began running 5k races, and we were hooked.

I am so blessed that through prayer, the support of my husband, and the advice of friends, I chose to honor my father’s memory by improving my health – both mental and physical.  I think my dad is probably pretty proud of the progress I have made over the past three years.  I have run many 5Ks, a couple of 10Ks, and three half marathons – and it all started with 1/4 mile on the treadmill.

I also wanted to use my story to help children deal with grief, so a year ago, my first children’s book, Dear Daddy:  When a Parent Dies, was published.  It is based upon my experience, and written in the form of letters to my dad.  If I can help one child through his or her grief, my book has served its purpose.

Through my faith and directing my energy into exercise rather than self-pity, I have been able to cope, and truly believe this was the path God intended for me.  Had my father not died, our family would not have moved to Southern Indiana (my mother remarried a man from this area), therefore I would not have my daughters, nor would I be married to my incredible husband.  I have a good life, and for that I am thankful.  I will continue to run and to step outside my comfort zone so that I can experience this life to its fullest.  We have one shot at living, and it can be taken away without warning.  I strive to make the most of each day.  So along with thinking about my loss today, I am also thinking about my blessings.  I have lost some amazing people over the years, and I miss each of them, but I am so blessed to have known them.

Have a wonderful Father’s Day, Friends!  And be certain to tell those you cherish that you love them!

Stop Eating Crap!

The title is directed at me.  I am sure that you enjoy a nice healthy meal and you eat veggies and fruits for between-meal snacks.  Me?  I eat crap.  A lot.  I have no self-control when it comes to eating.  Just in case you think I am exaggerating, here’s a rundown of yesterday’s intake:

  • Breakfast – chocolate Donettes and Diet Pepsi
  • Snack (for the drive to Owensboro) – Twix and Diet Pepsi
  • Lunch – O’Charley’s – Shared an appetizer with Addison – chicken strips, potato skins, and fried cheese wedges (it was awesome!)
  • Snack – Cheez-its
  • Supper – Peanut butter and jelly
  • Snack – more Cheez-its

Do you see one healthy item on that list?  The thing is, I know that I need to eat better.  When I go for a run, I can immediately tell that I have eaten crap all day, and that I have chosen my beloved soft drinks over water.  I feel heavy and yucky.  I ran five miles last night, but it never really felt good because of what I had put in my body all day.  After my run, I decided ‘No more!’  I was going to do better.  I would make better food choices so that when I run or do Zumba, I actually feel good.  I will eat better so I can help others, especially my family and my students, live a healthier lifestyle.

I have to drop Addison off at the high school at 7:30 in the morning on my way to teach summer school.  Rather than get up ten minutes earlier so I can eat something at home, I have gotten in the bad habit of running in the convenience store that is located – conveniently – across from the high school.  I am in there daily.  This morning I made my stop, bought a Diet Pepsi and …Poptarts!  I could not even make it until 8:00 am before I was ingesting crap.  I can justify anything; I needed breakfast, and I would do better the rest of the day.  I had to run in the grocery store to get some milk after school, so I also bought a bag of Baked Lays.  Again, I justified this purchase because they are better for me than real potato chips.  So, lunch consisted of a turkey and cheese sandwich (not bad), and Baked Lays (could be worse).  I also had a 20 oz Diet Pepsi and a Diet Mt Dew today.  Suffice it to say, when I went out to do a 3 miler while Addison was at her tennis lesson, I felt every single baked potato chip.  So what was next?  I had to get gas at my favorite convenience store, and I bought chocolate milk rather than a soft drink (baby steps), and animal crackers, which are low fat (darn, I am good at justifying my rotten habits).  Yesterday I actually apologized to the clerk at the store for being in there buying junk all the time.

Addison just texted me to see if I wanted to go to Zumba tonight.  How could I say no?  After putting all of this down for the world to read, I feel guilty.  I will go to Zumba; I will work extra hard; and I will work off those stinkin’ baked Lays.  The question is…what will I do tomorrow?  How can I change my eating habits?  What will cause me to make that change once and for all?  I KNOW what is good for me.  I KNOW what I should be eating.  I don’t eat because of some underlying issue.  I eat crap because it tastes good.  It’s as simple as that.  I would much prefer a bacon cheeseburger and fries over a salad with vinegar.  Fruit or cake?  Give me the cake.  Perhaps I should make it my summer mission to find healthier versions of some of my favorite foods.  But then I would have to cook.

The fact is, I want to run better, and in order to do that, I will have to eat better.  I am also supposed to start teaching Zumba classes as soon as I have my choreography prepared, and I can’t exactly teach fitness classes when I eat crap.  That would make me a hypocrite.  Starting right now, as I type these final words, I am going to promise you that I will try harder.  I will work to bypass the candy isle; I will eat breakfast at home; and I will drink more water.  What about you?  How are your eating habits?  Are you proud of how you eat?  Do you have advice for me?  Do you have some tasty recipes to share?  If so, leave a comment.  Help me out, People!