Why I Run: Kelli’s Story

Every Tuesday, we gather around the virtual fireplace to hear the tale of a new friend’s Why I Run adventures. I continue to be inspired, impressed, humbled and motivated by the stories they tell. If you are interested in sharing your Why I Run story, shoot me an email or click on the Why I Run button. Kelli is a new friend of mine. We met through our mutual friend Kelly. And I thought there were a lot of Jennifers. Please say hi to Kelli and give her a Woot Woot!

Growing up, running was not something fun. It was a means to an end. To get in shape for basketball, or whatever other sport I was playing at the time. Track? That was just awful. See, I’m a team player. Always have been and always will be. And people will tell you that track is a team sport, but really it’s just a lot of people out there running by themselves. I never saw the point.

Fast forward. I’m in my 20s, in graduate school and working full-time. I couldn’t stand one more minute of an aerobics class (of which I did five days a week for about 4 years) and was desperate for a way to get outdoors on my own time. You see, between work and school I was cooped up somewhere for about 50 hours (or more) a week. I needed to be outside! I went to go for a run one day, but without another sport to train for the running was HARD and felt too much like track. But I LOVED being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. So I kept at it.

When OSU played UCLA in the first final four of my lifetime back in 1995 (yes, I’m that old) it was a beautiful spring day. So pretty in fact I went out for a run before the game. I guess I was inspired by the basketball team. I ran to the local high school track and did seven (yes, I said seven miles) in not appropriate but all I had shoes, all by myself. It was glorious even if I couldn’t walk the next day.

I had plenty of time to think while all alone for the longest run of my life to that point. I remembered watching Joan Benoit Samuelson in 1984 winning the marathon’s gold medal in the Olympics and thinking I want to run a marathon someday. Now, when you are 16 someday seems like a long way off. It’s out there, like turning 30. Well, as I was approaching both, almost finished with graduate school (and the flexibility it offered to train), no husband, no boyfriend, no kids and out running seven miles on a beautiful day, I thought, I want to run the marathon this year!

Crazy. I know.

I found a training partner who was as crazy as I was and we did it. Nothing else mattered to me at the time but school and running. And I fell so in love with running. I fell hard. Knowing that I had the ability to train and my body could respond to the training was a wonderful feeling.

Running then became an outlet for me: For relieving stress, for coping with sad times, for the glee of happy times, for the pure joy of it. The more I ran the more I knew my body. The good days and the bad days. The days I felt I could run forever (and usually tried to) and the days that 2 miles was all I could do. Now, I never set any world speed records, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to run.

I loved running in the mornings before the sun was up. I loved my routes. I loved waving at the same people each morning driving on their way to work. I loved it all. It was a beautiful time in my life. I’ve run on treadmills for the last few years and while it still gives me my endorphin rush it’s not the same as being outside savoring the moments of the pavement under my feet and my breath pounding out of my chest.

Now, I struggle to find time to run (for one reason or another) and without running I don’t feel completely like myself. Over the past 16 years, it has become as engrained in me as getting up in the morning.

But, I’m trying to find the time. To make time. It makes me happy.

Because, I’m a runner.