Today is National Running Day! So fun that running gets its own holiday. A run isn’t going to happen for me today (though I went 2.5 miles last night — yay!) so I thought I’d celebrate the day by talking a bit about running.

I’m not really sure why I started running. In 2005, my sister Leah talked me into training for my first race, the Charlottesville Women’s Four Miler. I remember huffing and puffing along on the treadmill that spring in preparation for the race, thinking to myself, this is really weird. I thought I hated running. I’m not supposed to like this or get any sense of accomplishment out of it! What is going on. I think I ran the race because I just didn’t have any good reason not to.

Here I am with my friend Holly at the 2006 four miler. For some reason I ran the race wearing glasses.

I was 25 at the time and still healing myself from a lot of disordered eating and exercise patterns I had developed in college, so I didn’t catch the running bug then; I wasn’t sure I could do it in a healthy way at that point and at any rate, I was mentally exhausted from years of self-imposed pressure. So I ran the race and continued my easy-does-it fitness routine. Things continued in this pace for several more years — I would run the race (usually at a 10:00 or 11:00 pace), really have fun with it, but then set running aside again until training started up again in the summer. Eventually this became less about learning how to find a healthy balance, and more about just not knowing how to challenge myself again.

But I kept running, a little at a time. I’m not sure why I started in the first place, but I do know why I started to take it more seriously. In 2010 I decided to train for a 10k. At the time I had let myself get pretty out of shape, and I wasn’t happy about it; I had also just suffered a miscarriage and needed some form of distraction, as well as a goal to work toward to give me a sense of achievement. And all of a sudden, literally from the first training run I completed, I had found something I loved. Something that helped me feel better than anything both mentally and physically, and improved my health as a nice bonus.

And because of running, I look like a crazy person in this picture.

Now I know why I run. I run because I can. Because it makes me feel strong. Because I feel accomplished. Because it gives me time to think. Because it challenges me. Because I have fun with it! I truly think running makes me a better person.

However, even though I love running, and hope to love running for a long time, it’s actually hard for me to think of myself as a runner. To me, a runner is someone who is faster than me. Runs more than me. Has been running for much, much longer than I have. Has done more races than me. Has finished a marathon. Has a typical runner’s body. I remember buying an issue of Runner’s World for the first time and almost having an identity crisis in the store — would the cashier know that I’m not a real runner, that the longest race I’ve completed is a 10k? It sounds so stupid, but I still do have a hard time thinking of myself as a runner. It’s much easier to distance myself with the safer, tamer “I like to run”.

But after a year and a half of buying the magazine in the store, I finally took out a subscription. And one of the first things I bought for my postpartum wardrobe were new sports bras and running shorts. So maybe I am a “real” runner after all.