Thursday, September 29, 2022
By: Ben Levinson
Thanks to New Balance, a group of Charm City Run team members will be training and running the New York City Marathon together on November 6, 2022. Leading up to the race, each member will share a blog post describing why they are running, how training is going, and what it means to run a marathon as a Charm City Run team. Ben Levinson, shares his perspective on preparing for the New York City Marathon.
Any longtime runner is familiar with the shock, confusion, horror, concern, and incomprehension they are met with when they tell a non-runner they are training for a marathon (or any race, or that they enjoy running in general). They simply do not understand; so let me answer their questions once and for all. Why do I run? Peace, connection, joy.
First, for peace: I am an anxious person. One could say I am a deeply anxious person, in fact. I remember getting “the feeling,” when I was around 10 or 11: a feeling of too-tight and too-hot skin, irritability, and a strange sadness. This is when my parents began asking me, then telling me to run. I resented the suggestion at first (I was the second-slowest person in my elementary school class) but began to enjoy the practice in middle school. To my frustration at the time, my parents were undeniably right: running made me feel better. Running regularly made me feel better, regularly. When I became more deeply aware of my anxiety, particularly thanks to the joy of coming of age in the midst of a pandemic, climate change, and the global rise of authoritarianism, running was one of the only things I could rely on. It still is.
Second, for connection: I am a son. I am a son who does not share many interests with my father, and as this became clearer in middle school, running was something my dad and I could share. I do not enjoy football; my father was not a theater kid (although he very sweetly tried to engage and continues to do so, his favorite musical is Les Miserables). Running, specifically running followed by bagels (shout-out to Towson Hot Bagels), is how my dad and I navigated the teenage years until we arrived at our current destination: two adults with lots to talk about, lots to share. My dad is the greatest man I know, and I will always be grateful to running for keeping us close for those hard, awkward years. As my dad would say, we’ve covered some miles, but even more ground.
Third, for joy: I am a spiritual person. I am a religious person: Jewish, but I have always felt the most connected to divine joy in nature, while running. What is divine joy? Allow me to share an example: I was running on Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC last week. It was a stunning Saturday morning, and I was in the middle of my 15-mile training run. It was a pretty okay run, then it happened. A perfect song, sun through the trees, all tiredness gone from my legs: I was flying. There was a feeling in my chest that felt golden, and I was beaming – genuinely, truly beaming on mile 9 out of 15. This doesn’t happen every time, and when it does come it’s fleeting, but that’s okay. It doesn’t diminish the “regular” joy or mood stabilization that running causes; I don’t need a moment like that for a run to be a “good run.” However, the euphoria is so great that I will chase it for as long as I can.
This sport is such a gift. It sounds so corny, but it feels more like a way of life than a sport. Running makes me a better person: a kinder, more patient person. The mentality of running has carried me through difficult times, with its message of simply hanging on. Running has protected my brain, it has soothed my heart, it has (not for nothing) kept my body active. It is my ritual with my dad. I sincerely am grateful for every run I take – even the bad ones – and for the body that allows me to move like this.
I am also grateful for the way this “sport” came to me: Charm City Run. I played with our earliest employees as a toddler; I remember driving with the police escort for the Shamrock 5k and missing school mornings to go to the start of the Run to Remember. I’ve worked at the store, and I’ve grown up with these wonderful people, from creeping down from my bedroom during the holiday party, to having a beer with them at race post-parties, and everything in between.
My point is, running the New York Marathon – my first marathon – with Charm City Run only makes sense. I am bursting with excitement. So if you read this far, thank you, and even if you didn’t, all the same: I wish you peace, connection, and joy.