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.