Running can provide an
adrenaline rush without taking risks

(July 2012)
Read previous Heather Foy columns!
Heather Foy

Let me start by telling you that skydiving was not at the top of my Bucket List. To be quite honest, it was not on my list – period. How did I let someone else pressure me into taking the leap and facing a big fear?
I admit that I am not a big thrill-seeker, and I would typically be found teaching the Skydiving Safety Course instead of actually being the one to jump from the plane. I honestly expected myself to close my eyes – and pray the 40-second free-fall would be over with a few “I think I cans.”
From the moment I stepped onto that tiny plane, I surprised myself. I never panicked. My eyes were open. And I can honestly say, I survived (and would most likely jump again).
The difference between me and the person who encouraged me to “seek the thrill” – my husband – would jump again for the rush and intensity of the free-fall. I, on the other hand, would jump to enjoy the slow cruise and view after the chute opens.
Even if you are not a self-proclaimed thrill-seeker, there must be something that gets your heart pumping and creates an adrenaline rush so intense that you immediately seek the next adventure. As a runner, my next thrill to seek traditionally comes from the finish line, not a parachute. I’ve never crossed first as the person to break the yellow “winner” tape across my chest.
To be quite honest, this is most likely not in my running future. Competing against no one but me is my highest priority. There IS thrill in simply finishing.
This concept is very difficult at times for others to understand. A fellow running friend, also a teacher, explained to me that she proudly showed off her recent mini-marathon finishers’ medal to some of her high school students. They asked, “Did you win?”
After a brief laugh and an explanation that there were thousands of runners in her age group alone – and countless in the entire race field – she tried to convey the medal was for finishing.“Everyone gets a medal” she responded.
“Just for finishing?”
Their attitude made the medal seem average, not worth the effort, or not worth showing off.
I can run 13.1-plus miles on my own, and there is no cheering section, announcer, free Gatorade or finisher’s medal waiting for me when I turn off my Garmin and unlace my shoes. Those personal runs, too many to log, are for personal satisfaction. They are for my health and for my need to relieve stress. A group run or time on the road with a friend is social, while solo runs are personal. Pounding the pavement, one mile at a time, is my time to solve life’s problems (I’ve always thought the therapy you get from running cost you no more than a good pair of running shoes).
So if running without the traditional race day fancy finisher’s perks can give you so much personal satisfaction, why do I find a need to plan for my next organized race just to cross a chalk-drawn or spray painted finish line? Running a big mini or full marathon can mean overnight travel expense, planning babysitters, leaving early for packet-pickup, and packing a long list of race-day essentials. It’s typically a weekend “event” that involved time and additional expenses – not to forget the $50-$125 race entry fee.
My husband once asked me, “Why? Can’t you just go out to run 13 miles on your own? What makes crossing a race day finish line so special?”
For this average runner, race day is my adrenaline rush. Crossing the finish line provides the same thrill as that first step out of an airplane at 10,000 feet. Each mile marker provides the same rush as the 40 second free-fall. The comfort, even with hundreds of people on the same street as my feet at any given mile, is similar to knowing I’m strapped to an experienced tandem jumper. And the brief period of peace when they put the finisher medal on my neck after my feet slow from a finish line sprint to a wobbly-leg walk is my 40-second free-fall.
The best part is that I am perfectly OK with just the finisher’s medal. There is no jealousy for the speed demons who collect prize money and a first-place trophy. The medal might seem average to some and might only cost race organizers and sponsors a couple of dollars. I don’t share the same mentality as the previously mentioned high school students.
The medal is never ordinary to me just because others have earned it for just crossing the finish line. I have earned every one. They are proudly hanging on a fancy medal rack at home and not tossed in a shoebox. The shape and graphic of each medal and the ribbon attached brings different race day memories and a different finish time.
I think one of the beauties as a runner is that there can be a balance between “just finishing” and competition. The rush, or finding a fire within, can truly come from doing your personal best. Some runs bring a thrill of finishing a determined number of miles you have set for your training. Some races bring a rush of accomplishing a “PR” (personal record). And some days bring the peace of putting one foot in front of the other and not worrying about competing against yourself or others on the road.
If you have never crossed a finish line, consider taking a leap of faith and signing up to walk or run in a race. It may not be the same rush as skydiving, but you just might receive a thrill by earning your own personal medal of satisfaction.

• Heather Foy is a 20-year coach and group exercise instructor in Madison, Ind., who has been in the Wellness field for nearly 20 years. Email her at hnfoy@yahoo.com.


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