Sean Lee: ‘Why I Run’ [Blog]

By Sean Lee, WWJ Health Reporter

Early this past Saturday morning, I got up, and did my usual cold weather pre-run prep. Wrapped my left foot (plantar fasciitis), and layered on thermal underwear under my clothes. After breakfast, I piled on two jackets, dug out my running gloves and hopped in the car.

The temperature display on the instrument panel read a chilly 34 degrees outside, but I knew with the wind on Belle Isle, it would feel more like the low 20’s. I detest the cold, and I’d rather get a root canal than exercise outside when it’s freezing. So why was I running? When I signed up for the race, I knew I was running for a great cause – the 4th Annual “Run With the Cops, Not From Them”. The event raises money for kids with cancer.

But this weekend, I had an additional reason to run. After the bombings at the Boston Marathon Monday, I made a promise. Like many other runners across the country, I promised to run for Boston.

I’m no elite athlete. Although running has helped me lose 30 pounds in the past year or so, I’m still a little too chunky to be fast, and I’m never going to finish first. But running has given me many gifts. Some of them – like sore muscles and chronic plantar fasciitis – aren’t so great. But the good gifts, well that list is long and tougher to quantify.

Running has given me a deep appreciation for inner strength I really didn’t know I had before. That strength is obviously physical, but it’s also mental and psychological. Running has also helped me more fully embrace concepts like gratitude. Gratitude for a body that works like it should. And achieving things I have through running, like finishing the Free Press Half Marathon last year, make me determined to never take the gift of a healthy body for granted.

So Saturday morning, when the race started late because the hard-working volunteers were overwhelmed with participants, when I ended up alone at the start line in a crowd of 700 because my running buddies thought it was too cold, and when the wind burned my face and seared my lungs, I didn’t complain or feel sorry for myself. I slipped in my earbuds, tugged on my gloves, and I ran.

It wasn’t my best race. Did I mention I was freezing? I literally felt like throwing up it was so cold. I was slow because I hadn’t trained enough in the weeks leading up. I mentally kicked myself when I started to alternate walking and running. But I eventually found my groove, and I ran more than I walked. And I finished grateful, as I carried thoughts of all those runners who may never run again, or whose running experience will be incomprehensibly altered in a way they probably never imagined. In a sense, they carried me over the finish line.

If you need motivation to get moving, gratitude can be a pretty powerful tool. Be grateful for the amazing gift of being well and whole. Expressing that gratitude doesn’t have to be a 5K or a marathon. It can be a regular walk around the block after dinner as the weather gets nicer.

I’ve heard running described as a form of meditation. For me, on Saturday as it is many days, it was a prayer. A prayer of thanks and gratitude for health, a prayer of appreciation for the people who showed up on a chilly April morning to raise money for pediatric cancer patients, and a prayer for Boston.

Find your reason, and get moving.

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