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SALT LAKE CITY — A couple years ago I ran the Nike Women’s Marathon. Each year they have a theme and a slogan, and the slogan for the 2010 race was “I Run to Be...”
There are as many reasons to run as there are women who run and every reason is a good one. Some run to lose weight. Some run to gain strength. Some run to be alone. Some run to be part of a group. Some run to prove others wrong. Some run to prove themselves right. Some run for all these reasons at once.
Why do I run? It depends on the day or the hour you ask. This past weekend I ran to redeem myself.
My measure for personal success is internal. Don’t get me wrong. I love medals, T-shirts, awards and the like. It feels good to win and be recognized by others for a job well done. But that isn’t what drives me.
This became crystal clear to me last year after I finished the Utah Grand Slam. By all outward appearances I did very well. I earned my awards and wore my bright, lime-green, glow-in-the-dark shirt with a great sense of pride. Was I proud of my accomplishment? Of course. Was I satisfied? Not at all.
It was a rough year. Battling a recurring case of strep throat, a fractured foot, a pinched nerve and the reappearance of my old nemesis, illiotibial band syndrome, I finished the Grand Slam feeling broken and defeated. I was grateful that my body held on to the end, yet conflicted as I also felt betrayed by the very same body.
I had trained through the winter snow, wind and ice. I ventured into the dark, lonely Saturday mornings while my neighbors enjoyed pancakes and bacon. Every Saturday. Timed perfectly so I could smell it. So cruel.
I did the tempo runs. I did speed workouts. I iced. I foam-rolled. I stretched. I cross-trained. I logged my miles and switched my shoes every 300-500 miles.
I did everything “right,” so why did it all go so wrong?
Rather than try to answer that, I took some much needed time off. My body cried “uncle” and I listened. I was under doctor’s orders not to work out, much less run, for two weeks after having my tonsils removed. It would end up being six weeks before I laced up my Asics and went for a run again.
I would love to tell you that first run back was exhilarating. I would love to tell you my legs felt fresh and springy. I would love to tell you it was a joy to be back on the road. All that would be a lie. It was hard. It hurt. My lungs burned. My feet ached. I couldn’t run a mile without stopping.
So why didn’t I stop? The very definition of “redeem” is “recover.” I had something to recover — my confidence. The rightful consequence of all the hard work I’d put in.
This year’s running of the Grand Slam had nothing to do with winning. It had everything to do with recovering my running self. I knew I could do better. I knew I could run smarter. But knowing and doing are very different animals and I’m a doer by nature.
This year has surpassed all my expectations. I only hoped to treat my body well so it could reach its full potential, and it did.
After finishing the 2012 St. George Marathon, and, consequently, the 2012 Utah Grand Slam, I felt satisfied. I don’t run for a living. I have no sponsors. Few people aside from friends and family even know what a passion running is for me. I don’t run for recognition or fame. I don’t run to reclaim glory from days gone by.
I run for many reasons, but on this day, I ran for myself. I ran for my confidence. I ran to conquer the lingering demons in my head.
On this day, I found redemption on the road.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor, marathoner and two-time Utah Grand Slam winner whose not sure what's more satisfying- running a sub-3 hour marathon or indulging in burgers and fries with friends and family post-race.