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SALT LAKE CITY — It’s inevitable. At some point during every race I’ve ever run, I hit a dark patch where I start to question my sanity. I even question my own strength. I contemplate quitting and even fantasize about riding to the finish line in a comfy stretcher, waving to all the other runners stupid enough to finish on foot.
Interestingly, when I tell people about these moments, many are surprised. It seems that a lot of people think that since I run so much, I must love every moment. Each stride is met with rainbows, fluffy clouds and butterflies.
Running is hard. Running often hurts. Running makes me a sweaty mess. But that’s what I love about it.
There’s a certain satisfaction I get from facing down a challenge and conquering it. I imagine this is the same motivation that spurs adventurists to climb Mount Everest or swim the English Channel. I’m deathly afraid of heights and am the slowest swimmer you’ll ever meet, so those options are out of the question.
But running? I can do that.
I've stuck with running long enough to know that all bad moments come to an end. Nothing, not even pain, lasts forever. If I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get to the end.
Back in the olden days when I was in high school, we were instructed to run a mile in 15 minutes. I thought the bar was set impossibly high.
“I have to run how many laps around the track? You want me to do it that fast? Surely you realize I’m no Bionic Woman,” I so desperately wanted to say to my gym teacher as she sat on her little folding chair in the field drinking a Diet Coke.
There was nothing rewarding about those bi-weekly torture sessions. They only served to stir my anger at the fact my perfectly domed and teased bangs were ruined by the wind.
So, what changed?
In short, life changed. As a teenager, my life was relatively calm. While my problems seemed huge at the time, overall my day-to-day reality was pretty awesome. But as most of us know, the older we get, the more life throws at us.
Running, in a sense, is a microcosm of my life. When I take those first steps during a race or a simple training run, the possibilities are endless. There is a chance this could be the best run ever. But even during the best runs, there are bad moments. The question is, how bad will those moments be and how long will they last?
I’ve stuck with running long enough to know that all bad moments come to an end. Nothing, not even pain, lasts forever. If I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get to the end.
And the darker the moments are, the more satisfying and rewarding the finish line becomes.
Running is a physical, daily reminder to me that I am strong enough to do hard things. This reminder gives me confidence to tackle other challenges in my life that may have previously scared me off. I know if I face those obstacles that are making my life uncomfortable, I will come out the other end stronger and more self-assured.
So, I will continue to seek out the hills that make my legs stronger. I will tackle the long runs that shore up my endurance. I will embrace the pain that comes with the weekly tempo runs that make me faster. And I will do all of this because it’s the hurt that makes me the runner and woman I am.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner who enjoys running much more now that she no longer worries about messing up her hair. Read more of her work on the Deseret News blog, Reasons to Run.