Following my last marathon and its aftermath, some of my close friends and family members showed concern about my unwavering resolve to continue to run. “Is it worth it?” “Maybe a marathon is too much?” “When are you going to stop?” I’ve asked myself the same questions. So I guess it’s only fair that I at least try to explain, as much for them as for me.
So why do I run? I suppose there are many reasons, really. Running is healthy and fun, personal and social. I love to set goals and work toward them. There are great health benefits like having low cholesterol and an “athletic” heart. It allows me to clear my head, enjoy the great outdoors, and explore new places when traveling.
And why marathons? I think it’s just my personality. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to go the distance. For years I watched the Chicago marathon pass by my apartment on a Sunday morning in October. It was those runners who first inspired me. I set my sight on it and didn’t turn back until I, too, claimed the prized finishers’ medal in Chicago.
Yet it’s true that it hasn’t always been easy. Perhaps in some ways, I’m not really physically cut out to run. I’ve had so many setbacks, big and small. But then that is part of the challenge.
My life has been sprinkled with physical struggles from infancy. Hospitals are familiar to me. I’ve been to the emergency room in four countries. I’ve had more MRIs than I can count. I’ve spent at least 30 hours under general anesthesia. Since 2007, I feel like I’ve been living on borrowed time. While a lot of this is in the past, there are still ongoing health challenges that I don’t talk about much, but that continue to affect me every day. There were seasons in which I was physically unable to run. It is a gift that today I can.
So for me, running is choosing life. I don’t care how many times I’ve been knocked down along the way or ended up really sick after a run or a race. I have to get out there again. I have to fight back. Even when I was depressed to the point of shutting out the world, I still laced up my shoes and ran for hours in solitude. For me it’s a tangible way of declaring that I’m not giving up on life, no matter what happens. There is so much that I cannot control, but when I run, I feel alive. And so I choose to choose life. Day after day. And in choosing life, I am living.
We cannot control the day we are born or the day we die. Yet in-between, we have dozens of opportunities every day to choose life. Our choices in the small things—our actions, our words, the thoughts we entertain, what we worship, our priorities, how we treat our neighbor—can bring a breath of life (or the contrary) to us and to others. Running is not my ultimate hope, but it is a reminder to keep my eyes fixed on the goal, and to press forward even when life throws me some curveballs.
Friends, at least for now, running is not hurting me. It’s keeping me alive. You may see the times I fall, but I see the miles I’ve logged. You may think that marathons are extreme, but I rejoice whenever I have the physical strength to both start and finish in spite of it all. You may think that the challenges should be enough to make me stop, but I know that the only way to overcome them is to keep going. And I am overcoming, because by God’s grace today my health is so much better than it was 5 or 10 years ago.
So please don’t be concerned that I continue to run. Be concerned if one day I choose to stop.
And now, bring on the Paris Marathon!