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Why I run: Matt's Story Posted on June 17, 2014

What running means to me has changed a lot since my running journey began over ten years ago. When I joined the cross country and track teams in middle school, running was just another sport I participated in. I was just running for fun, and it was mostly a way to stay in shape for other sports, especially basketball.  Basketball was my first love, as far as sports go.  I was set on being a high school basketball player, but I didn't make the team my freshman year. I had always been involved in sports and was highly competitive, and seeing that my dream to play high school basketball wasn't working out, I switched my focus to running. I wanted to play varsity sports, and cross country and track seemed to give me the best shot of being a varsity athlete.

As a freshman on the track team, I didn't break 6:00 for my first mile race. I was far from reaching my goal of making the varsity team, as all of the varsity distance runners could run under 5:00 for the mile. Still, I was not deterred. I trained really hard for the next two years, and by my junior year, I was on the varsity team (with a mile PR a minute and a half faster than my first race as a freshman). At that point, running was a way for me to be competitive, a way to achieve success. Success was my primary ambition in high school, whether that was through academics, athletics, or music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed running for the sake of running and made lots of great friends on the cross country and track teams, but without being acknowledged for the times I ran, I don’t think running would have meant that much to me.

Beyond high school, I wanted to continue to run competitively in college.  I wound up choosing to attend Washington University in St. Louis, and thankfully, the cross country and track coach let me on the team. Again, as a freshman (this time in college), I was nowhere near being one of the top guys on the team.  Throughout my time at Wash U., I continued to improve a lot, and by the end of my time in college, I was running times I never thought I would. In addition to running a lot faster, I gained a greater perspective of what being part of a team truly meant. I was no longer running just for myself; I was running for my team. Being part of the team meant being part of a family, something much bigger than my own ambitions. Consequently, I became really close to many of my college teammates, and to this day, many of them remain close friends.  Running in college not only deepened my passion for running and racing, it showed me what it was to be a part of a team and part of a great community of people.  I've tried to carry these things forward with so that I can be a better friend and a more caring person.

Since graduating from college, my identity as a runner has continued to be less and less connected to my race times and personal achievements. Paradoxically, the less I’ve focused on hitting certain times, the faster I’ve run. I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but I know I’m more relaxed now with how I pursue my goals, and I don’t take my training so seriously. I am now running simply because I love it and the amazing people I am connected to through it.

Ten years and almost 30,000 miles later, I've now run in almost every imaginable weather condition and over every type of terrain. I’ve run in the rain, in the snow, during a hailstorm, in the cold, in the heat, during a tornado warning (on accident), into the wind, and when the weather's been absolutely perfect. I've run up a mountain, in the desert, on the beach, in the forest, in the city, and in the middle of nowhere. Running has taught me to persevere and to work hard. It has also taught me to appreciate the beauty in the little things. My ability to run is such a gift, as running has been so good to me.

Additionally, running has provided me with a great escape from the stresses of everyday life, and I find that there’s almost always time in my day to fit in a run. I've run when I didn't think I had time to run and probably should’ve been studying for an upcoming exam. I've run in the dark at 5 a.m. I've run in the dark after midnight. I've run when I didn't feel like running but knew that running that day would allow me to enjoy running more another day in the future. I've also run when there was nothing I wanted to do more than run. There’s nothing like sharing a run with your best friend or taking in the scenery along a serene trail in the woods or along the ocean! Running, even as simple a sport as it is, has taught me so much about life and about myself. Running means so much more to me today than it did ten years and 30,000 miles ago. Some of the miles I've run have been painful, some have been blissful, but I'm grateful for every single one that I've run. To many more!



*Matt Kruger is a freelance blogger for the More Miles More Smiles team!*

by Mark Spewak

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