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What is Running?

What do you think about when you hear the word running?  Do you think about the feel of the wind in your hair as you rapidly cross over a favorite road or trail?  Do you think of your heart, lungs, and muscles straining under the increased workload running puts on the body?  Do you think that someone would have to be crazy to run anywhere when modern transportation makes it faster and easier to travel other ways?  No matter what thought crosses your mind, most people have strong feelings about running.  You either love it or loathe it.

I, for one, love it.  I love the interactive process that takes place between my body and the earth.  The earth with all its hills, trails, roads, and paths is there just waiting to be explored.  It calls my name and beckons me to come see new and exciting routes in diverse places.  The earth yearns to share with me its secrets and show me places and things that are often overlooked.  My body, on the other hand, doesn’t always want to cooperate.  It’s easier to sleep in than get up early for a run.  Running uphill puts enormous strain on legs and lungs and where I live you cannot run without finding a hill.

I never used to consider myself a runner, let alone someone that wanted to run long distances.  Of course, I was a Soldier and I had to train for my semi-annual physical training test but that only required running two miles twice a year.  And then in early 2001, some coworkers challenged me to run in the Army Ten Miler.  Other than a March of Dimes walk-a-thon, a crazy Volksmarch in Germany, and some forced marches with my military training I had scarcely walked that far let alone ran.  So I started training to run ten miles.

The training wasn’t that hard probably because the Army made sure that I stayed in somewhat decent shape.  I started to increase my mileage, slowly and steadily, so that I would be ready for that race in early October.  As the date for my upcoming race began rapidly approaching, history had its say when 19 men decided to hijack airplanes and attack America.  The organizers canceled my planned race, which was scheduled to start and finish at the Pentagon, shortly after September 11th.  My long-distance running debut became delayed for a year.

Not being a person that wanted to give up on my goals, I signed up for the Army Ten Miler the following year.  When race day finally arrived, I loved the energy emanating from the crowd of over 15,000 runners.  Adrenaline, excitement, and anticipation build up as the crowd gathers and waits for the start to take place.  I struck up a conversation with a fellow runner only to think that he must be psychotic when he told me that he was running the Marine Corps Marathon the following week.  I couldn’t figure out who in their right mind would want to run a marathon.  Little did I know how much running would start to impact me.

Ten miles seemed like forever.  My entire body ached and I felt pain in places that I didn’t know could hurt from just running.  Many times I just wanted to quit.  Eventually, when mile after endless mile has passed by the finish line became closer and I started to realize that I might actually finish without dying.  Somewhere around that finish line, I became hooked.  I started to want to run.  After a couple wartime deployments and military moves slowed the process, I set a goal to run my first marathon.

Running changes lives.  Doing it takes something that we know is healthy and provides us with the opportunity to challenge ourselves.  When you finally realize that with running you don’t have to cross the finish line first to be a winner, it can become your passion.  You make new friends, see new places, support great causes, and have fun.  So what is running?  It’s simply whatever you let it become for yourself.

Greg Murphy
(801) 656-5897

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