I remembered something I have lost: why I fell in love with running.

Warning:  I am in deep thought mode tonight.  There is nothing funny in the post so if you were in need of a good laugh, watch this instead.

I used to think I ran because I loved running.  I was totally lying to myself.  Who loves the actual act of running?  For sure no one normal. It hurts, it's hard, and a lot of times it's boring.  I started running about 4 years ago, when my youngest daughter was about a year old.  I needed a hobby.  And I also needed the inner tube of milky white fat infesting the top of my pants to disappear.  I had no idea where to start.  I went across the street to my community clubhouse with my baby in a bouncer and started running on the treadmill.  Boy, I HATED doing it.  My goal was to run 30 minutes without stopping to walk.  At first this was impossible.  But after weeks of diligently suffering, I was finally able to make it about 30 minutes without a walking break.  It felt so good to accomplish a goal!  I was really struggling with the motivation to walk across the street to that clubhouse.  I decided that the only way to keep this ridiculously boring torture up was to sign up for a race.  I called up my friend Katie and told her that I wanted to run Ragnar.  It just so happened that she was running it with her husband's team that year and they had an opening.  And that was that.  Now I had to train or:

A) I was going to die.
B) I wasn't going to die but surely make a complete ass of myself in front of my friends.
Options A and B didn't seem very awesome so I decided to take my running from the treadmill to the streets.  I can remember the first time I ran 4 miles without stopping.  I was almost sure that I had traversed the entire wasatch front.  It was hard, but I conquered.  I think I started to really like this whole conquer thing.  When Ragnar time came, I was absolutely terrified.  I knew that I was not the fastest (in fact, probably the slowest on the team), but I was okay with that.  Finishing all three of my legs felt delicious, but what I didn't see coming was how much of a high I got from running out in some of God's most beautiful country.  I felt so connected with God and nature.

Since I was on a roll, I figured I might as well continue on to bigger and better things.  I completed my first half marathon, then full marathon that same year.  I didn't care about my finish times so much as I cared about finishing at that point.  I really enjoyed the time I was able to spend out of the house and spending many hours and miles with good friends while training.  Sometimes it was my only opportunity to have deep and meaningful conversations with people outside of my immediate family.  It also coincided with one of the most stressful times in our family life between several major life changes (family death, moving, starting a new business and switching career paths).  I was so grateful to have gotten to where I was from where I had been just 9 months before.

At this point I had fallen in love with running.  But let me clarify:  I have never loved the actual running itself.  It may have gotten easier than my starting point, but it still hurt, it was still hard as you pushed to get faster or go longer, and I don't care who you are - 3 hour training runs get pretty frickin boring.  But here is where I have gotten confused over the years.  Back then running didn't mean being the fastest, the toughest, the thinnest, setting PR's or doing things that other people didn't think they could do.  Running meant camaraderie, emotional release, being grateful that I had the ability to run, experiencing some of the most incredible places on earth in the most intimate way, and simply having a hobby.  It didn't define me.  And for the record, the inner tube had gone.  At this point, it was just a nice added bonus.

As time passed and I completed more marathons, more relays, and eventually a 50 miler, triathlons and some ultra relays, I started to call myself "a runner".  I am Kenzie Barlow, I am a runner!  I started confusing this phrase as a statement of being as opposed to something I do.  Once I let that be who I am, I lost a lot of the things that made me fall in love with running in the first place.  If I am having a hard day - i'll go for a run.  If I look at my Garmin and realize that I am slower than I used to be, I feel frustrated, depriving myself from the emotional venting I needed from the run in the first place.  I find myself preferring to run alone because I am worried about how slower runners may inhibit my ability to push while faster runners will make me feel less accomplished.  If I don't PR every race, I am disappointed with my abilities as opposed to being grateful that my body was able to run that many miles in the first place.  Because I am on one of the longest breaks between races I have taken since I first started running, I feel worried that I may never be as fast as I once was, which was never fast enough in the first place.

I love being a runner.  I still love what I have gotten from it.  Those first loves are still there, I just have to stop and look at the big picture every once in a while.  And let's be honest - if I was going to choose something because I thought I could be the best at it - it certainly wouldn't be running.  I have 3 kids and a husband that take priority of my time.  I can train for a race, but I will never be able to commit to training enough to be competitive.  And have you seen these legs?  They are 11" long.  I was built more like a Clydesdale than a Thoroughbred.  That doesn't mean I can't still be a runner.  It's just something I do, not who I am.  It's my hope that I will be blessed with the health to be running for most of my life.  As long as I remember that it enriches me and doesn't define me than the hurt, the hard and the boring will always be worth the price.

Answer me this please:

If you run, what do you love about it?  Or more likely - why do you hate it? :)


  1. Very well put. Now shut your yapper and lets go run together. Ps. my gazelle legs want to run outside. but I'm thinking 10:00 pace. Not sure if you can keep up... geez.
    Okay, Ill be right behind you the whole time.

  2. Yes, I am commenting again. I run to feel strong. To listen to my music that is not suitable in my SUV with all my kids. I run to get a second wind, and to remind myself that I am built on more than my laundry skills. Truly. I decided to run my first race ever in adulthood, this June. A 10k. I have zero endurance, and I feel like I have a lot to learn and prepare for.

    I loved this post, it really hit home for me. I may or may not be at the point you were at when you took your baby to the gym with you because you needed a hobby. I think picking up running again is a better hobby than many of the others I have considered :) Thank you so much for sharing. Your words are just what I needed and wanted to hear today.

  3. I started running because it was the first hobby I tried that my husband was really supportive of. He never had offered to stay home with the kids so I could go eat carmel apples at the mall, which was the hobby I really wanted to persue and could have exelled at. Signing up for races outside of my comfort zone forced me out of the house to train, and doing races with girlfriends forced me into girls weekends, which I was surprised to find enjoyable.

  4. I started running when my brother took his own life. He was 16, I was 15. That's how I trained myself to deal with life. 15 years later and I still love it and use it to motivate me everyday. Great post!

  5. I am definitely not a runner. I did my first race last summer, the Kiss Me Dirty 5K. It was so fun!! I liked taking the time to train and be out by myself with free time to think of anything or nothing, even if it was only for 20-30 minutes a day. I am going to do some more 5k's this summer and with that I pose a question for you. This may seem personal, but by your blog posts I don't think sharing personal info is a problem. ;) What kind of underwear do you wear when you're running or working out? I cannot seem to find something that I'm comfortable in. And please don't tell me those tiny running shorts with built in underwear...I'm not uh...ready...for shorts that short.