The Road to 26.2: Why I Run

The Road to 26.2: Why I Run

By Heather Nelson

Here’s some of the responses I’ve got since committing to running a marathon: “You’re crazy!” “I get bored after running a mile!” “Well…good luck!” “A marathon?! Really?!”

The words of encouragement and well wishes make the 26.2 miles seem more real, daunting. I’ve started to feel more pressure, and I thought to myself, “Why am I running a marathon?”

It’s not entirely about the 26.2 miles. Sure, I want to complete a marathon in my lifetime, but it’s about how I feel when I run. This is something that most of my friends haven’t considered when I’ve opened up about running. I always feel crazy for liking something that a lot of people seem to despise. And, in all honesty, I don’t love every run. But running is just one form of exercise I’ve really learned to appreciate. It makes me feel good…

So, here are the reasons why I run (even if running sounds despicable to you):

  1. It boosts my self-esteem. There’s nothing quite like exceeding all expectations one set for herself. Two years ago, I never imagined being able to run more than four or five miles. I never would’ve run outside or signed up for races. Finishing a run leaves me feeling high — and that positive energy lasts for hours afterward. Runner’s high is real! 

    The greater the endorphin surge in these brain areas, the more euphoric the runners reported feeling.  — from ‘How to Achieve a Runner’s High’

    2. It combats depression/reduces stress. Depression takes away my desire to move. Gearing up for a run is normally the last thing I want to do when I’m not feeling my best, but I lace up my Brooks anyway. Running helps manage my depression. Acting opposite to my emotion is just one way I attempt to end the negative cycle. Distance runs help me to combat problems nagging at me — sometimes I simply acknowledge the thoughts and other times I actively search for a solution. Short, speed runs are perfect for clearing up aggression and tension.

3. I sleep better. The nights that I get the best sleep? Nights after I’ve exhausted myself with a run. I’m actually able to turn off my brain and just sleep.

4. It builds confidence. As mentioned before, I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible with running. I solely compete with myself in an attempt to continually improve. Running allows me to grow stronger, more empowered with each step.  It’s as simple as that.

5. Running has taught me to be mentally tough. There’s nothing worse than running against the wind (except maybe humidity). A runner’s mind is forced to adapt and focus on overcoming obstacles. It’s easy to concentrate on the negative. Training the mind to dispel doubts is a runner’s biggest strength.

Running isn’t just great for physical health, it’s a great exercise for mental health, too. This is why I run.

10 Things About Me

10 Things About Me

By Heather Nelson

In an attempt to get back to blogging regularly, I thought it best to start — or restart — with a post about me. I’m not great at writing about myself. It’s almost like hearing the dreaded interview question, “So, tell me about yourself.” I’m bad at it. Where do you begin? What do you include? If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you know the obvious things about me. (If you don’t, here’s my about me page.)

So here’s 10 (probably) lesser-known things about me:

  1. I’m an advocate for mental health 

When I was a senior in college, I spent many nights considering suicide. It wasn’t until months after my graduation that I found the help that I needed. I spent a long time believing that the thoughts floating through my head were normal and scared to admit to anyone that I was even contemplating something so alarming. Now, I know that it’s OK to not feel 100 percent happy all the time, and I know how to manage my anxiety’s highs and lows. I share my story with others in hopes that it encourages because mental health shouldn’t be a taboo topic to discuss.

2. Kids are an important part of my life

For the past two years, I’ve worked as a daycare teacher. I didn’t envision myself at this job post-graduation, — I didn’t study education in college, and my career goals were a bit more selfish — but it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. The children have taught me to be self-less, patient and loving. Who doesn’t love walking in to work to hugs from 12 children every morning?

3. I’m not a morning person

I’ve never been a morning person; I prefer watching Netflix into the early morning. My mom told me stories about when I was in kindergarten and refused to wake up for school. “You used to cry every morning,” she said. “There was always something wrong that put you in a bad mood.” My mornings are tear-free, but I’d steer clear of me before I’ve had a cup of coffee. The catch? I’d prefer not to sleep past 9 am for fear of wasting the day.

Note: On weeknights, I’m in bed by 10 pm solely because of how early I need to be up. I really love sleep.

4. I consider myself an introvert

I despise large groups of people, dread public speaking, rejoice canceled plans, and prefer alone time.

Note: This is probably why I love running — it’s just me and the pavement and my thoughts (and a really rad playlist).

5. I’m a creature of habit

I’m the orders-the-same-thing-every-time type. I like routine. I meal prep one breakfast and lunch for the week. I rarely watch new TV shows or movies. I drive to the gym after work every day. Saturdays (or Sundays) are for Premier League soccer. A break my routine results in me feeling completely lost.

6. I’ve never traveled abroad

I’m not counting Mexico for a few reasons: 1. I was 10. 2. I stayed on the resort the entire time. My parents denied my desire to study abroad while I was in college (mostly because of the cost). Someday I hope to visit each of the continents — maybe not Antarctica.

Note: I’d also like to visit each of the 50 states. And all 30 MLB ballparks.

7. I’m an awful cook 

I was never one to watch my mom in the kitchen or to offer her help. In turn, I feel completely helpless in the kitchen. I’m jealous of food bloggers, who know how to substitute flour and how to create their own concoctions. I’m slowly becoming a better baker, but I can’t live off muffins and cookies and protein pancakes.

8. love reading and writing

I consider these to be my second job — someday, hopefully, my full-time job. Lately, I’ve been interested in non-fiction, which I previously hadn’t been fond of. I attribute this to the fact that I enjoy learning and reading allows me to explore more about the subjects that I love. (Most non-fiction I’ve read includes: baseball, American history during the 1960s and 1970s, and, really, any sports.) I also enjoy Stephen King novels. My favorite: 11/22/63. 

Note: Journaling is easy because it won’t see the light of day, but I sometimes fail at writing to publish.

9. I’m afraid of mediocrity 

I don’t want to wake up one day unhappy with the choices that led me there. I don’t want to lose sight of what’s important to me and what I plan to accomplish in life. There’d be nothing scarier than realizing “too late” that I wasted time on silly things. It’s cliché, but I want to make a difference. 

Note: I’m also scared of spiders (OK, most bugs), heights (falling to my death), sharks and things that bump in the night.

10. I’m working on… 

Besides the things I’m always working on — creating a more consistent writing schedule, eating healthier, reading MORE… — these are a few smaller things:

  • training for and running a marathon
  • actually saving money
  • finding concrete ways to support the Women’s Movement (and other causes I advocate for)
  • further my education

 

I’m reading two books right now, running a couple of times a week, and refraining from spending my paycheck on clothes. Looks like I’m on my way…