By Vanessa Galli
I have been running competitively since Elementary school, for nearly twenty years at this point. I have never thought about a world in which I couldn’t explore it by running it. Although, when I am asked the question, “Why do you do it?” I don’t always have an answer readily available. I decided it was time to answer that question once and for all. I will try to answer this bigger and broader question by providing answers to the more specific questions I have been asked about why it is exactly that I run.
“Why do you do it if it’s not a real sport?” Running has given me a true understanding of myself and of my body. After running for as long as I have been, I know what my mile pace is during a run, nearly to the second. I can tell when my body is healthy and when it needs rest. Depending on the distance, I pace myself to my breathing and my heartrate. I know when the slightest thing is out of balance. On a less physiologic level, running has given me an internal sense of purpose. I ran through all of middle school, high school and college. My best friends were always my teammates. Being on teams throughout this time in my life made me disciplined, bolstered my confidence and sense of self, and also gave me a sense of purpose that was bigger than myself. To me this is what a team means and what sport is.
“Why do you do it if you are not really going anywhere?” Running allows me to both escape and to face the world, depending on the day. If a day was hard, nothing allows me to process it like a good, hard run. My mind will process the day as I run, or blank the day out, depending on what it is I need at the time. For me, running provides a space for mindfulness, meditation and prayer. On some runs, my mind is a blank slate, and the only sound is my breathing. On other runs, thoughts race through my head and are rapidly processed at the speed my feet are hitting the ground. I always finish feeling better than when I started, feeling energized and ready to move forward again.
“Why do you do it if it hurts?” Running has given me the discipline to endure the challenges the world throws at me. Sometimes it hurts. All of the things in our lives that we put our effort into, that are truly worth it, come with the occasional struggle and pain. Currently, I am working to rehabilitate my knee and for that reason have decided against running the Salt Lake City Marathon in April. This hurts both physically and emotionally, considering the weeks and months I have spent training for this race. Running has taught me that despite the injuries, poor performances and other setbacks, you have to keep moving forward. There is always another day and another race to turn your sights to.
“What exactly are you running from?” This is my favorite question I have been asked and also probably the most difficult to answer. We are all running from something and it probably changes depending on the day. We are running from our fears, from our challenges, from our failures and from our disappointments. When I am running, I am running towards something, not away from it. I am running towards new goals, the next race and the next challenge. I enjoy exploring the world by running it, because you never know what’s around the next corner or bend in the road. My momentum propels me forward while my eyes take in the world around me as I move. My gaze is steady and focused on what lies ahead and not behind me as I take the next turn down the next path. It is as simple as one foot in front of the other.
Vanessa Galli, MD is a second year Family Medicine Resident in the Department of Family & Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine.