So there’s this thing I do to myself that causes me pain.

In fact, it hurts a lot sometimes, but I still do it at least three or four times per week.

It usually makes me really tired afterward and I often have trouble breathing while doing it. Even still, I will get up at 4 or 5 am just to make sure I am able to get it in.

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

Shoes to do it are at least $120 a pair, and you need at least three pairs a year. Nutrition gels, gear, clothing, expensive registration and travel costs, gym memberships… it all adds up. 

This thing I do often starts off as a free activity but the more you do it the more it costs you.

What is this seemingly painful, costly thing I do? 

It’s running, of course!

And I willingly continue to do it.

I remember when my parents came to my very first Des Moines Marathon to cheer me on, my dad had 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 put your body through 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 register for 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 believe in registering for races of all distances 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 has helped me significantly, not every run is fun. Running is more than using your body to move; running is about setting goals 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, these consistent goals make me motivated to keep going and help 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. I have run several 5Ks 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 ran the I35 Challenge with me last year. My brother started his own health journey following my inspiration a few years ago. He has now far surpassed any running goals I could have imagined by completing several half iron man races.

Healthy. Finally, of course, running keeps me healthy and fit, so registering for races helps me stay active with the sport in order to stay healthy. I have always enjoyed being active throughout my life, be it boot camp classes, stationary bike riding, walking, etc, but it wasn’t until I started running regularly 6 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 and flourishing relationships with friends who enjoy the sport. Running also allows me an outlet to write and support other runners.

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

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