The Red Bandanna Race – and why I run

Yesterday was the 8th annual Red Bandanna 5k Run – I have run the race all four years at BC. No one knew much about the race my freshman year. No one knew the story either. There were 261 runners. Then, last year, ESPN published a 13-minute Outside the Lines piece that garnered national attention. This year, there were over 1,000 runners.

*If you haven’t seen the documentary, it’s worth your time. You can watch it here.

I finished the race in 22 minutes, which is exactly what I expected. It was my second-fastest time in this race. But the time isn’t that important to me. The feel of the race, as it has always been, is about coming together as a community, enjoying a brisk fall morning (it was really cold – barely above freezing), and honoring the memory of a fallen BC alum.

I love this stuff. The running part was difficult, as it always is, especially since the last mile is all uphill. My sides cramped up half-way through the race. My throat dried up, which will happen when you’re breathing heavily in 30 degree weather. But I’ve run in enough races to know exactly what I need to do to combat these challenges and power through to the finish.* And, when it’s all done, there’s nothing like sharing the experience over some food and a hot drink.

*Running, as you can see, is a metaphor for life.

I actually wrote an article about running for my high school’s newspaper – which, as it turns out, was never published. At the time I wrote that:

The sport in itself raises the most admirable attributes of athletes, that of competition, sportsmanship, and passion. Few know the effort it takes to run three and one-tenth miles at the fastest speed possible. As the track star Steve Prefontaine once noted, “The only good race pace is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.” Ultimately, in order to be successful in the sport, you have to give yourself up to the race and let yourself go.

A few things I’d like to add to this – running is an incredibly mental sport. All sports are, really. Something that I’ve learned is that it usually hurts to think about what you’re doing. If I thought about how much I was breathing or how much my shins hurt while running, I don’t think I would run as well. The same goes for baseball or basketball or tennis. Over-thinking is real, and it’s crippling, and the most important part of competing is to rely on muscle memory.

I look back on my decision to start running as one of the best decisions I have ever made. And this is just the beginning, since the behemoth called the Boston Marathon awaits in April. But, as Ted would say in How I Met Your Mother, more on that later.

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