Running Stars: Aaron Word

Allentown, Pa.

Aaron Word“Why I Run.”

In complete honesty, I’ve never really thought about why I run. It’s hard. It hurts. It takes up a large part of my schedule. Plus, it has made me sick and tired of all the music on my iPod.

My entire life, I hated to run long distances. I was a baseball player back in school, and to this day I still joke that I only played it because 90 feet was the farthest that you ever had to run (unless I hit a double, in which case 180 feet was do-able).

However, that was years ago. I’ve changed a bit since then. I have a running addiction. I started two years ago. I have run 4 marathons and am currently training for a 5th.

I’m not particularly fast, or slow. I’m not fat, I’m not short. I don’t have any disability, any sickness, or any special cause that makes my running story fascinating. I am, for all intents and purposes, just a regular, average, everyday guy.

I grew up in a very small town north of Dallas Texas. It was hot, it was boring, it smelled like cows. There’s really not much else to say about that. I have three siblings, and two crazy parents. There’s a lot to say about that. But I won’t bore you.

I watched Star Wars, and Star Trek as a kid. I love baseball, and would still love to be an umpire someday. I love Kurt Vonnegut and Phillip K. Dick books. I play guitar, and bass, and ukulele, and saxophone, and various other things. I want to learn to play piano. I love math and engineering. I hate cold weather. I went to Texas A&M. I am an engineer. I work hard. I make pies in my free time.

That’s my story, in a nutshell. Very… average, right? So where on earth did running enter my life? And why on earth do I still do it?

It started simply enough. My older brother started to run small distances. I couldn’t let him outdo me. He ran a mile, I ran two. He ran three, so I ran four. Ah, brotherly rivalries.

Those first weeks were rough. The pounding of the feet, the intense boredom, the soreness the next day. But try as I might to stop, I kept going out for more. He kept running. I’d run a little bit further. We both decided that the next step was to shoot for the moon. We were going to run a marathon.

A marathon was the first organized race I can ever remember running. No 5k, no 10k, no halves. I went for it all. And I did it! And though it confused me at first, I realized that there are so many reasons why I did it. And still do it. And so, I compiled a list.

Here is why I run:

• Bragging rights with my friends for being in better shape than them.
• That beautiful, beautiful endorphin high. It’s the best legal drug out there.
• The idea that someday I may qualify for Boston. (Anytime soon? Fat chance. But maybe someday)
• That picturesque fantasy of actually winning a marathon.
• The slightly more plausible fantasy of crossing the finish line of a marathon, and maybe a beautiful girl comes out and gives me a big fat kiss on the lips. One of these days!
• I know that I can do 1/3 of an Iron Man now!
• It’s fun to see the people who you are able to influence to start running. My mom, at age 50-something (she prefers it if I don’t remember the exact number) is training for a half marathon now. My little brother (age 14) is training right there with her. My little sister (age 10) is… well she’s usually inside painting a pretty picture while they are out running. (There’s still time to work on her).
• Celebration Dances. Nothing beats crossing the finish line like a boss, yelling and screaming like you won the race. But heck, to me running a marathon in 3:56:00 is winning the race.
• Women in running shorts is one of the greatest things ever.
• People watching in general. You get plenty of opportunities. There are some goofy people out there. Actually though… this one can be negative as well. I saw a drug deal go down once. I ran a little bit faster that day.
• It gives plenty of time for self reflection.
• It gives me a good excuse to do Yoga to keep limber. I can almost touch my toes!
• It is awesome to be able to eat as much junk food as possible, and not gain weight.
• There’s not much that I find more enjoyable than sitting down with a cold beer while soaking in a hot bath after a long run.
• Your life becomes so much more organized when you have to plan things around hour long runs every day.
• Last, but certainly not least, my older brother has the better overall marathon time. That can NOT stand!

That’s why I do this. There’s no morally righteous reason. I am a simple guy. It’s the little things in life that you have to hold on to.

There’s no great single cause I run for. I’d say I run for the average man.

I run for the guy who enjoys watching TV and sitting on the couch.
I run for small town kids, who grew up in a place with more cows than people.
I run for the SciFi geek, who quotes Dune, and considers Batman to be their hero.
I run for the intellectual, who solves logic games and Rubik’s cubes when they can.
I run for the fat kid with a sweet tooth.
I run for the garage band musician.

I am no different from these people. They are me, and if I can do it, they can as well.

I’ve been asked by people before, “How do I run better?” I usually answer them with this:

“The only person you are racing against is yourself. That’s the only person that you have anything to prove to. It’s really hard to lose a one person race. You just have to finish, is all.”

May we all keep finishing our own personal races, even though we may not know exactly why we keep running them.