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These Legs were Made for Running

On a recent flight to Los Angeles, I got into a conversation with my seatmate.  We talked about our dislike of long flights and bad movies.  Finally, she glanced down at my legs.  “Ah, you must be a runner,” she said.

I followed her gaze down to my legs and cutoff shorts, and pride swelled in my chest.  A runner.  And she could tell just from by the way my legs looked.  It was the ultimate compliment.  Instantly my legs took on a new level of respect in my mind.  Sure, I knew these legs had carried me over countless miles, up and down hills, through roads, trails and fields; to treasured personal victories and across my favorite finish lines.  But it was one thing for me to know that.  It was another thing for someone else to know it just by looking at me.

“Yeah.  Yeah, I am a runner.”

“I have a friend that does half marathons.  I just don’t get it.”

“You don’t get what?”

“All she talks about it how hard it is, how tired she is, how much it hurts. I don’t get why anyone would want to do anything like that.”

I think we’ve all heard that before.  But how do you explain to someone why we do it?

How do you explain the way autumn leaves smell on a back road in the evening? How do you explain the reason behind the smile on your face when your legs can’t hold you up anymore after a long run? Sure, you may be out of breath and tired, but you keep going because you don’t want it to end.

“So you race?” she asked.

“Yup.  Half marathons, fulls…I did a six hour ultra through the forest once.  That was beyond awesome.”

“A six hour ultra?  So you run for six hours without stopping?  Who would want to do that?!  You must get some amazing prize for winning.”

Another one that’s hard to answer.  The winner of the 6 hour race got a small wooden log with the name of the race burned into it.  A homemade prize.  Running has nothing to do with winning, for most of us.  I’ve never won a race, and I probably never will.  But I remember those six hours, and hearing the cars off in the distance on the freeway, and feeling like the luckiest girl in the world not to be stuck in one.  I told her that it IS hard, but it’s worth it.  Four hours into that race I started feeling like I couldn’t run any further, and a volunteer handed me a paper cup of soda.

“You have no idea how good a paper cup full of Pepsi tastes when you’re dehydrated and just completely out of gas.”

“Hmph,” she said.  “I guess I’d just rather not be dehydrated and out of gas.”

Finally, I just thought about how proud I am of myself for being able to accomplish things that many people wouldn’t think that they’re capable of.  Everyone needs to feel good about themselves for something, and running does it for me.  It makes me feel strong, healthy, in control, and happy.  Every achy knee is worth it, every sore muscle, every ounce of sweat.  But I guess it’s just too hard to explain.

So I resorted to “Well, if nothing else, it’s an inexpensive way to stay in shape.  I don’t have to pay for a gym membership or fancy equipment, just a pair of shoes, shorts and tee shirt and I’m good to go.”  And, I added silently, clearly it works.  After all, my legs must be in pretty good shape for you to guess that I’m a runner.  HAHA!  Just LOOK at them!  Muscle tone, sinewy, shapely, strong… these are indeed the legs of a runner, aren’t they beautiful!?!?

“Yeah, well, I figured you must really love running,” and she gestured to my legs again.

I looked down again and sighed.  13.1 Miles of Mouse is emblazoned on my right thigh, commemorating a recent half marathon in Disney World.  Clearly visible to my seatmate, and indicative of the fact that I am indeed a runner.  I sat back and pondered…

I’m pretty sure she was talking about all my muscle and stuff.  No one really notices tattoos, right?

Written by

Tracy is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She’s employed by a major fitness footwear retailer as a Regional Product and Sales Trainer. By working in what she considers to be “as close to a dream job as you can get,” Tracy gets to travel the east coast while educating her co-workers and potential clients on the benefits of embracing a healthy lifestyle.

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