Ask most runners who have been at it over time if they are passionate about running. Now, admittedly, passion is a bit of a loaded word. Implying deep feeling, ‘passion‘ is just this side of ‘out of control,’ some might say. At any rate, you’re sure to get some interesting responses.
A few years ago, I used to live and run in South Dakota. That’s where I joined a running group, the Black Hills Runners Club, for the first time. I think that’s where my “passion” happened. I say I think as it wasn’t an “aha” epiphany for me. I’d liken it to one of those relationships where you’re really good friends…..and gradually realize that it’s become more than a friendship.
I’d run all my life, playing on the streets of Detroit as a kid, in baseball, tennis, and then just regular running. As my friends grew up, had families and jobs, we found it harder and harder to mesh our schedules for team sports, or even tennis doubles. So I was a recreational jogger who ran a race now and again. (Once, back in the ’90s in Montague, MA, I won a sack of potatoes at the New year’s Day annual run.)
In 2003, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Sometime later that year, after a double mastectomy, I ran my first marathon. Not too long after that, I of course managed to injure myself running. And couldn’t run. It was then I realized how much I missed running.
I was greenly jealous every time I saw someone running. When I was finally healed enough to run a few slow distances on a treadmill, I found tears streaming down my face. Then I ran Boston in 2004 and cried again, repeatedly.
Yeah, I’m that corny. The volunteers kept asking me if I was OK (it was hot that year) and I had to reassure them I was fine, it was just that I was running Boston, and wasn’t that some kind of wonderful?
It really is, too. That wonderful. Above, there I am 10 years after that first Boston, in 2014. Boston is many things, but what I love most about it is that it truly is a passionate celebration of running.
This distance running pastime means those of us in its thrall spend hundreds of miles, thousands of hours in solitary motion. When we converge on a marathon, there is always joy, always the expectation of sharing the passion with all these other crazy people who think running 26 miles is a fabulous pursuit. You can feel the passion in the air.
One definition of passion I ran across when thinking about this essay captures the special passion of the long distance runner. “Passion is ambition that is materialized into action to put as much heart, mind, body and soul into something as is possible.” And we do, because running a marathon takes your body and your mind, that’s clear, but it comes to claim your heart and soul if you let it.