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Why I Pay to Run

So there's this thing I do to myself. It hurts a lot sometimes, but I still do it at least four times per week.

It usually makes me really tired and often makes it hard to breathe, yet sometimes I still get up at 4 or 5 am to do it.

And when I do it for over an hour and a half in one setting, it almost always makes me have horrible stomach cramps and GI issues for several hours afterward.

It isn't free, shoes for the sport are at least $100 a pair, and you need at least three pairs a year. Nutrition gels, gear, clothing, registrations, gym memberships... it all adds up. What starts as a free sport that you can do around your neighborhood, often becomes something that costs money as you get more active in it.

What is this seemingly awful thing that I do? 

It's running. 

And I willingly and gladly pay to do it.

I remember last fall when my parents came to the Des Moines Marathon to cheer me on, my dad asked me some very reasonable questions.

After hearing the cost of the race registration he said something along the lines of, "Whoa- wait. You PAID to do this? I thought if people wanted to run in a marathon they just could. You actually paid to run in this?"

I guess to a non runner it might sound kind of crazy- why would anyone PAY money to run an excruciating 26.2 miles? I even know runners who don't do shorter races because of the cost, saying things like, "I run 10ks all the time, why would I pay to do one?"

And I can understand that. But there are many reasons why I do register for races throughout the year.

Goals. Running can be a great way to build endurance, stay fit, and clear your mind. But let's be honest- it does get monotonous. Although switching to audio-books this last year has helped significantly, not every run is fun. Running is more than using your body to move; running is in your mind. And if your mind isn't in it, you won't have a good run. I have found that if I register for periodic races throughout the year though, it makes me motivated to keep going and helps me to push myself through those times when my head just isn't in the game.

Accomplishment. One of my favorite marathon signs of all time stated: For all the girls picked last in gym class. This was so me. In the sense of organized sports, I was not naturally athletic growing up. I was never taught that once you start to get tired, you can push through it. As an adolescent I was never given the proper information from coaches about what endurance is and how it works. As an adult I have achieved such personal pride and accomplishment in endurance running. It took me 30 years to figure out that even though I might be tired at mile 3, by mile 6 I will feel great. I am not the fastest runner, but I am not the slowest either, and as a runner I am just fine with that. 

Role modeling. I love that my kids see me run in races. They like to go on "runs" with me around the neighborhood, and even though none of them are more than 7 years old, they still like to try. I have run a few color runs with my kids and I am excited to see if any of them will be interested in the sport as they get older. Even my husband has rekindled his enjoyment of running over the last few years and he will be running his first half marathon soon. My brother (who will also be running his first half marathon soon), niece, parents, some of my friends, and even people that I don't really know that have followed my journey, have been inspired to get more active through walking and running. That to me is more reward than I could have ever imagined.

Healthy. Finally, of course running keeps me healthy and fit, so setting race goals helps me stay active with the sport in order to stay healthy. I have always enjoyed being active throughout my life, be it bootcamp classes, stationary bike riding, walking, etc, but it wasn't until I started running regularly 3 years ago that I felt the strongest and healthiest I have ever been. I eat healthier when I run, I drink more water when I run, and I am just overall more fit when I run.

In addition to these reasons, I have others of course, like networking with other runners, flourishing relationships with friends that enjoy the sport, and running allows me an outlet to write and support other runners.

It is said that the best things in life are free, and that is true. But some of the best things in life can cost a little bit, too.

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