Thursday, October 23, 2014

Who do you run for?


When I started sharing the news that I was going to run this year's Chicago Marathon, a lot of people asked me what the race was for. They asked me what charity I was running for. I had to stop and think about this the first few times I was asked it. A lot of small races, especially 5ks, are held to support a particular charity. I'm glad that non-runners recognize the benefit of that. But it felt a little awkward to try to explain my motivation to run the Chicago Marathon. I tried to explain that runners could run for a charity, but that most runners run the marathon for the experience. I got a lot of puzzled looks. Nobody said anything to me, but were they thinking that I was selfish because I was running this race for me? Just because I wanted to run it?

When I ran the Chicago Marathon 3 years ago, I did run as a charity runner. The previous winter, I did some cross training on the bike, in a CompuTrainer class. I rode alongside several Ironman participants. One of them, Sandy, became a good friend. She has a son with Down Syndrome and she convinced me to run the marathon. So I ran as a charity runner for her charity, UPs for Downs. I raised $1000. My thinking was that if I committed to run for a charity, I couldn't back out of running the marathon. The charity, in turn, provided support to the runners. They offered us free training and course support. They also provided entry to the CARA prerace area and gear check. It's not a bad thing being a charity runner. This year, when I ran Chicago, I won a free entry from my employer, a large healthcare provider in the Chicago area. I received the same benefits as the charity runners--a team t-shirt, a pre-race heated tent, gear check, and post race lunch. There's a definite plus to being a charity runner.

But I wasn't a charity runner this time around, and I was ok with that. It just struck me as funny that so many people asked me this question.

I've also noticed more and more runners on Facebook running for a chronically ill child. The most popular organization that connects runners to these kids is called I Run 4.  The website states the purpose better than I can:
The mental and emotional encouragement for both runner and honorary runner is proving to be a whole new level of motivation and awareness.  Runners are able to find a whole new sense of purpose in their running while sharing who they are running for and bringing awareness to diseases and disabilities of all types.
Runners are matched with adults and/or children with disabilities. The site recommends even sending race swag or medals to their child.

I think this is a great idea for runners looking for motivation or a purpose for their running. But is it ok that the rest of us aren't doing this?

I thought about this a lot the past couple of weeks. I shared with some of you that one of my patients is a baby with a several congential heart defect. He has already had one surgery, and will have another one next month. His parents are from Mexico, and they only speak spanish. They are wonderful, caring, kind people who bring food for my medical assistant and me. They planned to come to the marathon, but one of the other kids was sick. I thought about running for him. Most definitely, the chronically ill kids in my clinic inspire me to run. Because I can. But I also run so that I can be a better provider to them.

Last week, I saw a little girl with a distended abdomen. Her mom thought it was constipation, which she has had problems with for a long time. But her belly kept getting bigger, and she ended up on my schedule. I palpated her abdomen and felt a large mass. Not poop. I knew it was bad. I put on my poker face and told the mom I would be sending her to the ER for a CT scan and evaluation, telling mom that it would be the quickest way for me to get the testing done. I haven't been able to stop thinking about her. Yesterday, I got the report that she has a cancerous tumor. Devastating news for her family, I'm sure. And this week, I dedicated my miles to her. Because I can run. Because this made me just so darned sad.



More than anything though, I run for me. Motivation is not an issue for me. I have a job that can be incredibly stressful. As the mom of two teenage boys, I'm not finding a whole lot of joy in parenting these days. Life is hard. And running makes it easier. I run to feel free. I run the day off. I run races for the satisfaction of training and achieving a goal. I run because I love to run.

And I think that's ok.





16 comments :

  1. This is such a great post. I'm so proud of you and everything you do!!

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    1. Thanks Karen! I think you're pretty amazing!

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  2. Love this post, Wendy! I've never run a race for charity (I feel bad asking all of my friends and family for money, even if it's for a good cause) but I respect that everyone runs for a different reason and one reason isn't necessarily better than the other. I hope your patients wind up being okay after treatment--that must be tough to deal with!

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    1. I feel like you do--I hate hitting up my family and friends for money all the time!).

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  3. Kind of funny that so many assumed you were doing it for a charity (because why on earth would you just run a marathon??). I've run on a few charity teams and I have to admit that was really the only reason I didn't quit at mile 14 at the 2010 Chi marathon (hot again). But, like you, I run mostly for my own health. Mental and physical.

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    1. I thought it was kind of funny too, which is why I wrote about it! But of course, many of those were the same people who asked how far the marathon was....

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  4. Wendy, what a heartfelt post. I too, got many puzzled looks when telling people I had signed up for a marathon distance/race. "Why?"
    Not everyone will understand, or get it...but I run purely for ME. It's the one thing I can call me own...the one place that is all for ME. Selfish? Maybe...but it makes me a better person to hit the roads/races/trails. Prayers go out to your patient and her family. Tears wellled in my eyes reading this...

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    1. I agree with you 100%. And I went with my CMA to to the hospital to see that family today. The parents are amazing. They were thrilled that my CMA and I reached out to them. I'm sending lots of miles to her.

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  5. I am surprised people assumed you were running for charity too! I usually assume the opposite!

    Recently I interviewed two friends of mine who participate in IRun4 on my blog. I think it's soooooo great, but, not for me. Everyone has their reasons! It's great that you think of your patients for some runs... and fine when you don't! :)

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    1. Maybe because you are a runner, you understand that we run for ourselves! I agree with you that I Run4 program is awesome, but I don't need it. I've got so much inspiration in my job!

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  6. Great post! Of course it's ok to run for yourself-you deserve it. By running for yourself you are also running for your family bc you are healthier and stronger for them in addition to setting so many great examples for your kids. You go friend!

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    1. Thanks! I think I will go...once the sun comes up! :)

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  7. My sanity. I tend to be a bit obsessive. Family trait. Running allows me to use that up so that I don't direct it towards spouse, kids, work, friends, etc. A win for everyone! LOL

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  8. People know what they know about a sport: you've discovered that for running they think of charity runs. For figure skating all they think of is watching the Olympics on TV, so if I mention my skating to some random person I'm sure to get a joke about wanting to see my triple axel or whether I am going to make it to the Olympics. They are just making conversation. Understanding about what I put into it and why is something I only expect from fellow skaters.

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    1. So true, and I totally get that! After the marathon, I had non runners ask what place I came in---oh, about 15, 000 or so.... LOL!

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