I don’t know how much I’ve blogged about my running, but it’s become such a critical part of my life that I need to write about it.

I remember running a mile or two sometimes when I was a teenager. Although I didn’t do school sports, I was an active dancer and for-fun tennis player, so I was in decent shape.

When I decided to audition for the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, running became a lunch-time staple to keep my weight down and stay in good physical condition. I took my “WalkMan” and listened to tapes of Phil Collins and ABC.

Later, I ran off and on, but I always hated it, and mostly it happened inside on the treadmill. This March, I took up power walking on the treadmill at home in an attempt to maximize my time at home with the kids and limit my treks to the gym. I decided I didn’t need to run.

Eventually, I took my walks to a walk/jog, and then I started to get a little bit bored, even with the television in front of me.

A marathon-running friend of mine encouraged me to try running outside. No way, I protested. I hated running, really, and I wasn’t very good at it. He suggested a good pair of running shoes and told me to map out a path I could do outside.

I used Map My Run to sketch out a 4.25 circuit around my neighborhood. I tried it.

I immediately became hooked – as in, I can’t NOT run.

So now, I’m running my 4.25 miles about 4-5 days a week, and I have become pretty creative with squeezing in 45 minutes to reap the benefit of the “high” and the long-lasting sense of well-being that follows. My iPod usually plays Carolina Liar over and over and over again, but sometimes I switch out to other motivating tunes.

I soak in my world around me – the smells of freshly cut lawns and of sawed-off lumber for framing the new homes going up… of dinners on the grill and the strong pine scent of evergreen groves I pass on the back stretch. I take in breathtaking vignettes touched by the morning or evening sun, and I admire the landscaping ideas of my neighbors. I’m titillated by the strong construction workers and their bulging muscles, and I pretend I don’t notice when they look up as I pass. My music takes me to another level of being. I’m keenly aware of my body and my legs and the effort I exert as I breathe in rhythm with my stride, yet I feel like I’m outside of myself, watching. My spirit soars and sometimes I just can’t stop smiling.

I love myself when I’m running.

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