Discovering our Drive to Run


After having my second sharp curve of progression this past fall,  then dealing with plantar fasciitis, followed by my insomnia always worse in the winter, I couldn’t keep riding the high of my new found fitness from cross country season. I took a couple months off running and training. During this lay off, and currently, I have been doing some serious soul searching to get back to the race-fit-driven-Sarah. While in the midst of time off and rusty races back, I felt and still at times feel very lost.

It’s like I was on a long run exploring a new park. I was cranking out a long run on limestone at an crazy-fast-flying pace, but came to T: one way looks like it leads to a neighborhood and the other to the forest. As a true distance runner, I always choose immersing myself in the beauty of nature when possible. Taking a turn into the forest, I was suddenly not pounding on ideal limestone, but found myself in ankle deep mud. I was suddenly going much slower–but–able to smell the wildflowers that for the previous crazy-fast-flying pace did not permit.

This past indoor season, or lack there of indoor season, I was no longer on the path to finally break a 5:00 minute mile or set myself up for a stellar 5k/10k this outdoor season, but I was on a really important path: The path that made me rekindle the 19 year old Sarah’s drive to become a better version of herself. The Sarah that would run every day because she whole heartedly loved the freedom that running gave her mind to explore who she was and what she wanted to become. The Sarah that never knew 3 years later this would become one of her biggest priorities in life leading her to the experiences, relationships, and challenges that serve her best as she becomes an adult trying to make a tiny dent in the world around her.

A runner should be able to identify WHY they are putting one foot in front of the other day after day, season after season. I don’t think too many 14 year olds, or even 20 year olds, have ever really sat down alone in a quiet room with pen and paper ready to brainstorm about why it is they continue to participate in a sport that is significantly heavy in mental strength regarding perseverance and resilience. Identifying why we choose to run is the single best way, aside from physical aspects of training, that a runner can improve because establishing a list of reasons that guide us and give our daily participation’s purpose. This will give us power when facing any obstacle.

This list should consist of reasons that are applicable to any situation: Whether we are injured, on a break, aging, dealing with a setback or riding a winning streak, on the lowest ranked high school team in the state or on the starting line at the Olympic trials–this list is why we find joy and purpose in running.

This list can change with difference seasons of our lives, as I am sure we will all discover different motives the longer we continue to make running a part of our lives.

How do we compile this list? Here are a series of questions I have asked myself over the years that have gotten me to create my list:

  1. Why did I start running?
  2. Why did I stick with running?
  3. What is my favorite thing about running?
  4. What single aspect of training gives me the most joy?
  5. What single aspect of competing gives me the most joy?
  6. What do I most look forward to when the season starts?
  7. What have been the rewards (physical, mental, or emotional) from past seasons that have meant the most to me?
  8. How have I changed, regarding the content of my character as a person or student or friend or spouse, since taking up running?
  9. What have I been able to accomplish, in any area of my life, since taking up running?
  10. Has my participation on my team or involvement in the local running community influenced other people’s running journey or accomplishments?
  11. When I leave my current team or community, what do I want people to remember about me?
  12. When my teammates or coach hears my name, what do I want the first thing they think about me be?
  13. Who do I look up to in the running world?
  14. Who looks up to me? (I promise you–someone, somewhere does.)
  15. How does my participation in running affect the local economy around me?
  16. How does my participation in running affect my health?
  17. How does my participation in running affect how people view their choices regarding healthy living?
  18. How does my effort this season affect my school?
  19. How does my effort this season affect my teammates and coaches?
  20. What experiences, memories, or relationships have I formed or can I form that running has given me?
  21. What could a new level of fitness or pain tolerance allow me to achieve?
  22. Has running been my way of establishing confidence?
  23. Has running been my way of meeting new people?
  24. Has running been my way of getting my alone time?
  25. Has running been my form of therapeutic relief?                                                                                       

My List:

  1. To give my parents satisfaction in knowing that they raised someone who does not give up and tries to channel their passion into their way of connecting to world around them.
  2. To give my coaches, past and current, satisfaction, celebration, and validation in their career choice.
  3. To better my own health and try to be someone who can help others live healthier and longer lives.
  4. To be a part of a team: to be a part of something larger and outside my own self so that my teammates can experience moments that are very meaningful to them.
  5. To spend my time merely doing something that makes me feel very alive, in hopes that others without this kind of passion, not necessarily running, may seek out something that gives them the same joy.
  6. To showcase that getting last place in a first competitive season doesn’t mean that will always be the outcome if the input changes.
  7. To be a strong female runner who sends a positive mind-body image message among any fellow women.
  8. To experience struggles in hopes that the skill set I acquire from overcoming challenges help me achieve any thing else in my life.
  9. To experience severe agony in races so that I can walk a ledge of PR-grasping-self induced-body-shutting-down-pain that only a handful of humans will ever try to walk–or run I should say.
  10. To better my academic and work performance, as running eases my anxiety that has keeps me awake at night and fidgeting all day.
  11. To form some of the most meaningful relationships in my life.
  12. As running is so universal, I can connect with all kinds of people no matter race, age, or cultural differences.
  13. To see some of the most beautiful views and experience the world around me in a very unique way.
  14. To learn every thing I can and experience every thing I can regarding the sport of running, so that I can have that personal viewpoint when I, hopefully, become a coach someday.
  15. For me: This little carved out time every day to go run and try to improve automatically gives my day enough zest and purpose to make any day special because I can try to apply #1-14 to every decision I make.

I hope this rant of what may seem like an over excessive exercise of self reflection regarding running was worth reading and can help someone out there better figure out their purpose.

Thank you for reading.

Sarah Bradley
Expanding on her passion for distance running, Sarah Bradley, is a young lady who finds great enjoyment in interviewing people on their journey pertaining to the sport of track and field and writing about various topics within the sport. She wishes the insights, experiences, and self reflections shared may serve someone, somewhere. Beginning running recreationally at age 18, she has since found substantial improvement. She is mostly silly, but on occasion--when she drinks enough coffee--she is fully enticed in the pursuit of her very best.