When I was in college, I had a friend who loved to knit. She made the most beautiful blankets. I was envious of her skill and begged her to teach me. After hours of patient guidance, I had created my own blanket. It was about two feet wide and ten feet long. The edges were crooked and the whole thing was a little lumpy. It looked nothing like my friend’s gorgeous creations. Not to mention, the peace she said she found as she knitted was not something I experienced.
All I felt was frustration and tired fingers. I just didn’t get it and I have yet to pick up knitting needles again. I imagine this is how many of my non-running friends feel about running.
Running is a relatively new obsession for me. I’ve always been active, mainly a faithful gym rat. When I did run before, it was usually on a treadmill. Not the most romantic liason. So my true love of running didn’t find me until five years ago. Once I was bitten, it was all over. Running and I began our love affair. We started making steady dates, even meeting on the sly when everyone else in the house was gone. Yes, it was bad. It still is. Our love has only proven stronger as time goes on. A lot of my friends thought my running obsession was more of a passing fad that would fade away after I finished my first marathon.
But when I kept plugging away at the miles even after the finishing medal was around my neck, many were perplexed. When I try to explain to my non-running friends why I love this running thing so much, I’m usually met with blank stares, even snide comments. Why would you spend so much money on races? Why would you spend your Saturday mornings all sweaty? I would only run if I were being chased. By a bear. Throwing flaming darts at my head. Do you ever wear anything other than running clothes?
Then there are the doomsday friends who like to tell me all of the reasons why running is bad for me and my family. Either my knees are going to explode or my children will become delinquents, aching for more time with their martyr mother. Most of the time I just smile and shrug.
Other times the comments really sting, but I have yet to let their disapproval or misunderstanding of my love affair stop me from running. Yes, I realize that when I’m running a marathon, it hurts. No one who runs 26.2 miles looks fresh. I realize that may seem a little ridiculous to put my body through the battle that is a marathon. It’s hard. It hurts.
But I can’t give it up. I’ve stopped trying to explain to my non-running friends my obsession with the sport. I’ve stopped trying to explain what the finish line means to me. No one will ever convince me that cooking is relaxing or that gardening is good for my soul. Likewise, I’ll never convince someone that running makes them a better person. It’s a useless argument. If they want to understand my passion, they’ll have to lace up their shoes and try it themselves. Even then, they may not see the attraction, and that’s OK. I need these friends in my life. They give me balance.
As much as I love to talk running with my fellow enthusiasts, it’s good to give it a rest. My non-running friends make my life whole. My only request is that those friends not belittle my love. I appreciate that my friends are in love with other sports and activities.
This is what makes them interesting. As an added bonus, there are fewer people to compete with when it comes to race entries! In a world that upholds diversity, let us embrace that diversity among us. Whether we run, bike, cook, sew, climb or meditate, let’s celebrate the activities that make us who we are. That make us happy.
Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner and is very grateful to have a grandma who knits beautiful blankets.