Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why I Run

Every member of the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge team is encouraged to film a "Why I Run" video call. I won't be filming one-- writing this blog is already a bit of a stretch for me putting my feelings out on the internet. But, if you listen to what other members of the team have to say, you'll notice some similarities. My guess is that most people would pick one or more of the following reasons:

  • I lost [someone] to [some kind of] cancer
  • [someone] was treated at Dana-Farber and survived
  • This is my way of making a difference in the fight against cancer
  • I love running and it's my dream to run the Boston Marathon

I could certainly film a video in which I enumerate the reasons why I'm running with the DFMC team in the 2013 Boston Marathon, many of which would sound similar to those above. Instead, I thought I'd try to articulate a more general answer to the question "why do you run, Jeff?" Or, more specifically, "why the heck would you want to run 26.2 miles all at once, Jeff?" Many people have a hard time understanding why anyone would pursue such an endeavor, so I'll do my best to share my own personal reasons.

There are a few parts to my answer, and believe it or not, "because it's a good form of exercise" is most definitely not one of them (although its effects can't be ignored). This notion was introduced to me in high school when I learned, in physical education, that one of the requirements of a passing grade was to run a mile (yes, a single mile). In college, after my body stopped growing and my metabolism became inversely proportional to the amount of pizza I would eat after a long night of drinking beer on Friday night, I thought, "maybe I should run" (perhaps, two miles before exhaustion set in) in order "get fit."

Wrong answer.

After college, I got a bit of a taste of my enjoyment of the sport while running a few (~three?) miles up and down Santa Monica beach. Sometimes on my own, others with my roommates, but almost always with a gorgeous sunset on the horizon and waves crashing into sand a few hundred feet from me.

Over the following years, thanks to my move to the east coast as well as my job which required me to travel a fair amount, I had an opportunity to run in some interesting places:

  • Central Park, NYC
  • Fort Lauderdale Beach (in February- wish I was there now!)
  • Amazingly well-maintained bike paths in a number of different fly-over states (even I remembered the names of the towns, you probably wouldn't know where they were)
  • Martha's Vineyard
  • Downtown Toronto
  • A cold country road in Cumberland, Maine, with a warm home awaiting for me upon my return
  • Along Lake Michigan in Chicago
  • San Francisco: down California Street, Embarcadero, sunrise over the Bay Bridge from Telegraph Hill and then back up Lombard Street with the new friend who would later become my wife (if that isn't romance, I don't know what is).
  • One of my favorites: down the mall, across the Potomac and back, in DC.

The list goes on, but the place where I've literally logged hundreds of miles over the past few years is where I truly discovered the answer: The Charles River, which, by the way, looks remarkably different since my last post after the ridiculous amount of snow we got over this past weekend.
A few years back, while working at Endeca, some co-workers of mine and I started running during our lunch breaks. We typically made a loop between the Longfellow and Mass Ave bridges (~2.8mi). At some point, my friend Jack and I decided to extend the loop to the Museum of Science (~3.8mi). And then we extended to the BU Bridge (~5.7mi)

Philadelphia Marathon, 2011
Jack and I also started running faster. In high school, the idea of an 8-minute mile was a dream. During 2010-2011, Jack and I were shaving 5s+ of our pace every week, and by the time I ran the Tavern-to-Tavern 5K in August of 2011, I set my 5K Personal Record of 19:43 (6:19 min/mile), placing 6th in my age group and 18th overall in a field of about 600.

I started entering races with friends, or by myself. I ran 3 half marathons over the course of a year, and then decided to run a full. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon with a time of 03:33:26, placing 1654/10312 finishers in November of 2011.

I run because it allows me to experience the world outside on a regular basis, to ignore the demands of normal life and open my eyes to the beautiful world we live in. I never run on a treadmill. I run because it provides a meaningful connection to other people that doesn't revolve around "dinner or drinks." I run because it offers me a challenge-- I know I can always get better, and yet, I've never been disappointed with a race time. But mostly I think I run because at this point it has become part of my identity-- no other hobby, interest or activity feels like "mine" in the same way.

And I'm running the Boston Marathon on April 15th, 2013, because I have an incredible opportunity to participate in the world's ultimate race and, in the process, raise money for a cause that is very important to me.

If you have yet to make a donation towards my run with the DFMC team and would like to, please donate online or mail me a check, made out to Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. I'm running in memory of my grandfather, who passed away from prostate cancer three years ago, and all proceeds go to the Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

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