Because I Can

If you're as old as I am - 35 - this might ring a bell:

I wish I could show you the whole thing, but the best I could do after an hour of diligent procrastination googling was this first page of the print ad campaign "Empathy" that Nike ran in magazines in 1991.

I remember thumbing through my issue of Seventeen and coming across the full ad; the underlying message of strength and empowerment struck me and stuck to me.

For the rest of my senior year of high school, the pages of that ad were taped to my bedroom wall. And I know without a shadow of a doubt and without going down to the basement and digging through the moving boxes labeled "Memorabilia: Marianne" that those very same pages, yellowed and ripped at the edges, are tucked into my Senior Year Scrapbook.

We all have words and images that speak to us, cracking open doors and shining a bright, illuminating light, ones that we carry in our mind's eye as we make our way through life. It's been more than half my lifetime since I happened upon that ad and I still remember the goosebumps it gave me.

It inspired me to lace up my running shoes in my freshman year of college and go for my first serious run. I had run on and off during sports in high school, but since I didn't play in my junior and senior years, my endurance base was a big fat zero.

I remember from that long ago run that it was September; it was hot and humid in that choking Maryland way, and the smell from the chicken houses on campus hung over the high rise dorm where I lived. I made it about half a mile before my side cramped; my lungs burned.

I felt terrible; I felt proud.

The next day, I went out and did it all over again. Running hooks you like that.

Tomorrow, my awesome bro-in-law, Uncle Meatball, will run in The Flying Pig, his gazillionth* marathon. We'll be up at the crack of dawn to head downtown to cheer for him and the other runners.

I had hoped to run in this year's Pig, but finding time to train proved impossible for me. I ran a marathon many years ago Before Kids and I remember the hours and hours I devoted to getting ready as well as the deep exhaustion after those long runs; not exactly a schedule I can keep with my current kid-chic lifestyle.

Even though I'm not logging training miles, I still run a few times a week indoors at the Y track and outdoors on the rolling hills that surround my neighborhood.

Why do I run?

My legs are strong enough to carry me as far as I want to go. My mind is motivated by the long stretches of silence broken only by the steady sound of my feet pounding, time to think and recharge. My soul is soothed as I shed my worries one breath at a time.

Running is my me-time; that it helps to keep the numbers on the scale from climbing is simply a Godsend given my obsession with chocolate bonus.

I run for exercise and stress release and for clarity of thought, but mostly?

I run just because I can.

*Ok, so "gazillionth" is a bit of an exaggeration, but he's close to double digits in marathons completed. Uncle Meatball is a running machine!

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