We are all running our own personal race.

You just have to do the best you can and believe that it’s good enough. You just have to start.

You just have to start. Illustration by Paul Petch.

Non-runners see a crowd passing by at a road race and think we’re all in some way competing with one another.

What’s not apparent—until you’ve been there yourself—is that we are each running our own personal race, for our own reasons, with our own unique expectations.

Sure, you may be running for your place on the winner’s rostrum. More likely, though, you’re running to raise money for a charity, to set a healthy example for your kids, or just because you enjoy it. Maybe you love being in a crowd. Maybe you hate being in a crowd and are trying to get over your anxiety. Maybe your insufferable brother in law bet you couldn’t run a 10K and you want to show him just how wrong he is. Even if we’re running side by side, chances are I’ll never know why you’re there, and you won’t know why I am. But that’s fine, because there’s no bad reason to run. This lack of ‘why’ intrigues me.

At the same time that we’re each on our own, though, we’re all together in the race together. Running is the only sport I know where pros, elites, veterans, beginners, and even (sometimes) children all play together on the same field, at (more or less) the same time. We are all equal. Free of labels and perceptions. The New York Yankees would never take the field against the local twelve and under girls’ softball team. But a twelve-year-old girl might well pin on a race number and run the same race as Meb Keflezighi. And while he’ll obviously cross the line well ahead of her, she may, in her own way, have as good or better a race. Meb has his priorities, and that young girl has hers. Who’s to say whose priorities are better or more important?

Me? I’m running because I spent most of my life thinking I couldn’t run and finally realized that I could. I discovered you don’t have to be young or long-legged or naturally gifted. You just have to do the best you can and believe that it’s good enough. You just have to start. I don’t mind being near the back of the pack, because I’m proud even to have stepped up to the starting line. You see, this is in essence why we run… to start something, and each start is like new.

I may not know why you run, but whatever your reasons, I’ll cheer you on because I get it. Because we may each be running alone, but we’re all in this ‘life race’ together.


I’m keen to hear your thoughts

  • Why do you run?
  • Do you run for charities or good causes?
Janet Gardner
For decades, I considered myself just about the least athletic person on the planet. Then at age 50, I got the crazy idea to begin running.
Janet Gardner

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About Janet Gardner

For decades, I considered myself just about the least athletic person on the planet. Then at age 50, I got the crazy idea to begin running.

  • Robyn Santa Maria

    I love this post! In particular your point about being free of labels and perceptions. For many, many years I kept telling myself that I wasn’t a runner. “I’m not built for running. I’m not very athletic. I’ve never been fast at any sport,” I would keep telling myself over and over again. A number of years ago I took up triathlon training (namely to lose weight after living in London!). I met some great people and even started to like running – wow! I could feel myself improving, but then I was devastated when a coach said to me “well, you can blame your parents for not giving you great genes for running.” Bam! What a slap in the face. Despite the fact that I was a strong swimmer and even stronger cyclist, what he said stuck in my mind. I lost motivation and definitely ruled out running; I told myself it wasn’t for me. Fastforward a few years after that and I started running again, but only to help with fitness training for a trek I was about to do. I went trail running with some friends and that is how I met my husband – yep, through a running group! He was one of the fastest in the group and I was one of the slowest, but I will always remember how encouraging he was and didn’t treat me any differently because of my running speed and ability. Fastforward a few years again and here we are, living in France (I’m Australian, he is French), training for trail running events in the Alps! I can now say that I love trail running. I’m getting stronger every day and more confident about my running (slowly getting over my fear of steep downhills) and feel as though I can now say that I’m a runner. I’m also proud to have stepped up to the line and not let that comment of years ago defeat me. So, congratulations on your running and keep enjoying the journey!

  • Hey Robyn, thanks for the comments! Stoked you are running again, and enjoying it. It’s amazing how many people are out off from running due to ‘media perceptions’ and brands. Nearly all runners I know don’t fit the image at all, and we have all seen people cover great distances with gaits that look so kooky! Trail is so much fun :) Mountains even better!!