By Noelle Neal
Running is not my favorite sport. Prior to 2012, I resisted running like most children resist broccoli. As a high school swim team member, I would “get sick” on dry land training days just to avoid running. Shortly after college, I realized I no longer went outside. Instead of trekking all over the University of Oregon campus, I was just sitting in my car in traffic or whatever building I worked in at the time. When I signed up for a half marathon and decided I would be a runner, I started on the treadmill. It reinforced the idea that running is terrible and painful. Like most, I assumed running was a great way to lose weight and I wanted a shiny medal. So I slogged through miles on a machine, trying to do anything but stare at how slowly they went by. Then I ran outside.
I’m from the Antelope Valley, specifically Littlerock. The road I grew up on was barely paved this decade and there are still no streetlights. As a young kid, I would sit in the backyard at night and count the stars, getting lost in the sights and sounds of the night. Running outside reminded me that there is beauty and majesty in simply being outdoors. As a resident of Santa Clarita, I appreciate the well paved walkways, bike trails, and tree lined sidewalks that grant me the ability to travel the whole valley on my own 2 feet. Running in Santa Clarita has given me a sense of community and family that I would never have believed possible. Most every runner in the community is supportive and encouraging, regardless of pace or distance goals. For me, that has been a great source of comfort and motivation even when getting out of bed is a challenge. There is something so inviting in the knowledge that when you get up at 530 AM on the weekend and step outside, you are not actually alone. There are numerous other runners, walkers, commuters and dogs ready to give a friendly hello and offer a smile. No one cares if you’re running, walking or biking, it is all a celebration of activity and being outside.
Running is an opportunity to go outside and take a deep breath. Even if my run is done at 17 minute mile, the activity of going outside and taking the time to simply be is worth every blister and raw spot. Any time I can set aside to be outside, alone with my thoughts, audiobook or music is an opportunity to reconnect with a sense of self and purpose. I have fallen victim to the need for bling more than once, stressed over pace training and mileage, felt frustrated when I wasn’t losing the weight I assumed all runners were supposed to, but the reality is that this is supposed to be fun. Take a deep breath, go out there and find your peace.