In the summer of 2007, I made a drastic lifestyle change. I started running.
And it’s not one of those things where I ran for three days and then start telling people, “I run now. It’s my thing.”
I say it’s a drastic lifestyle change because I never stopped. Since 2007, I’ve run an average of five days per week. And I never run less than 2.5 miles at a time. I enjoy it. It’s an escape from reality, and I just plug in my ear plugs and go. I don’t enjoy running with other people — I prefer being by myself, going at my own pace, and being alone with my thoughts and whatever artist is blasting into my ear drums.
Six years after I began, running is second nature for me at this point. I now make a point to expand my distance, often running four or five miles at a time with relative ease.
However, over the course of these six years — while I’ve laced up my running sneakers some 1,200 times — it’s never been for an official, organized race. In other words, I’ve never run a 5k or a 10k.
The short explanation is because I don’t need to. If I have no problem running three to five miles on my own, then why do I need to do it with a group of people at a designated start time? I have nothing to prove by running a race. I already know I can do it.
But the real reason why I’ve never run a 5k is something that is slightly more telling about the type of person that I am. And not in a good way. Nearly all organized races occur early on weekend mornings. Like at 8 or 9 a.m.
I like to go out on weekends. I enjoy meeting up with friends, going to bars, indulging in alcoholic beverages, and stumbling in my front door at 3 a.m. When that happens, I tend to wake up the following morning with any one — or all — of these symptoms: exhaustion, headache, dehydration, nausea, dizziness. That doesn’t exactly put me in tip-top shape for a 5k.
And you know what? I prefer it that way.
There’s no reason why I can’t have my cake and eat it too. And by that, I mean going out drinking, coming home at 3 a.m., eating leftover cake that was in the refrigerator, waking up with an epic hangover, waiting it out for several hours and then going for a lengthy run outside. I got to go out, have a fun night, and still got my exercise the next day.
When the thought ever enters my brain to run a 5k, I actually dissuade myself because I don’t want to sacrifice a Friday or Saturday night just so I can go running at 8 a.m. the next day.
There’s also some kind of a 5k culture that exists now that rubs me the wrong way. I tell people that I ran five miles after I got home from work the other day, and nobody cares. Another person posts on Facebook about how they are doing a 5k in three weeks, and they get 25 likes.
And there’s always some absurd name for these races. The “14th Annual Potato Sack Wild River Mud Crawl 5K Dash.” It’s like people think that running these races will give them double the health benefits than running on their own would.
Or perhaps it’s the atmosphere that people enjoy during a 5k. It’s a gathering of hundreds of others who are jubilant, energetic, and ready to run. Ninety percent of them probably posted a “before” picture on Facebook, and are already thinking of the glorious after shot when they cross the finish line.
People who run marathons and half marathons are true warriors. Such races require exhaustive training, unparalleled commitment and determination. And finishing one is a real accomplishment.
A 5k, and a 10k for that matter, is not a race. It’s a social event. It’s a collection of people who like to say that they do things. That they have a zest for life. That like to be involved.
When people are touting a 5k as an accomplishment, that’s when we know that standards in our society have sunk pretty low.
This Sunday, I will wake up about four hours after thousands of people in our country have finished a 5k. I’ll be deathly tired, severely parched and popping aspirin the moment I regain my ability so stand. And then, several hours later, I’ll double a 5k.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.