Kayode also known as the WritingRaven has been through a “running renaissance”, a time period where he has gone from being active to not to active again. He shared with us why he runs and what motivates him to do it every day.
Why I run
I guess for a fundamental reason, I run to stay in shape but it’s more than that. It has to be right? Why does someone get up at the crack of dawn to labor in pain and sweat for no immediate reward?
Growing up, I wasn’t the smartest or the coolest kid in my grade. Nor was I a tall kid; a fact that was really important to me back then. I was just another student in a sea of heads. But, I excelled at one thing: Running. When we started tracking, I discovered I had this one talent; I could zip by anyone in front of me. It didn’t matter how much of a head start I gave anyone, all I had to do was paint a target on their back and I would run them down. When track season came, I became the cool kid. This was my ticket for a long time before I discovered my brain, passions, and of course, girls.
After college (I am a Morgan State alumni…Go Bears!) I broke my femur and stopped working out regularly. I was settled in a sedentary lifestyle until I found myself out of breath from climbing up a short flight of stairs. Suddenly, the former pride I had in my fitness reappeared and I decided to start running to get back in shape. So, in 2007, my second running journey began.
In my first running life, I lived as a sprinter, always blazing down the track in short prestige distances. This time; however, I knew that fast life was over. My intention now was just to run regularly to get some cardio in. Like most sprinters, I hated longer distances with a passion. It always seemed pointless to me to run for that long and endure all that pain, but I did it for training when my coaches asked us to do it. Now on my own, I told myself I would limit the distance to a 5K at most, but I was wrong.
That familiar pain of the long run was still there just as I had left it, but there was something different; Me. Maybe it was because I was pushing myself again, but the physical effort suddenly had more of an emotional impact on me. For the first time, I embraced the strain of the long distance and enjoyed it. Having a soundtrack to run with also didn’t hurt, I remember listening to Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor for months while I gradually stretched my 5Ks into 10Ks. I can still recite the rhymes and raps on that album in my sleep today.
Back then I worked out at the YMCA and ran on both the treadmill and road. By pure chance, I discovered a 5K race being organized by Ellicott City and thought, why not? At this point, I was comfortable running a 3-mile race and my sprinter ego assured me I could totally crush it. I didn’t. Looking back now, I realize how well my performance was for such an unexpectedly hilly race. Although I did win the Y member award, that last hill crushed me. What I discovered during that race was that I missed the competition of racing against runners. So, the world of road racing opened up to me. My next race was a 10K and then a bunch of 5Ks. The next year I ran my first marathon. Four marathons and six half-marathons later I can’t imagine not running.
So, what was that question again? Why do I run?
I run because it makes me feel alive. I run because it allows me to test and push myself physically and mentally. I run because it’s my escape. I run because it renews my hope in myself, my city, and my people. Seeing people of all shapes and sizes running, builds my confidence in life. I run because I like the salty taste of sweat pouring down my face telling me how hard I am working (or how humid Baltimore is!). I run because I can. I run because I love it.
While I am open to different charities, I almost exclusively support She’s The First. It’s a charity that supports the education of girls in low-income countries that are usually the first in their families to graduate from high school. I passionately believe in the possibilities that education can open up to people. The reason that I am passionate about this particular charity is that I know girls are especially at a disadvantage in many countries where it’s believed that they should not be educated. Extreme poverty also makes it easy for girls to be denied education, so any program that keeps the door open for them is something that touches my heart.
For me, education gives us a chance to solve global problems and brings us closer to being a truly united people. We only have this planet for right now, so it’s important we live harmoniously in it. Education is one of the many steps that can take us there. I know we can’t get progress if women and girls continue to be disadvantaged. We can do much better and this organization is definitely helping.
People often complain about not having time to work out or run, and it’s an excuse I had for some years. But when there was something truly important for me to do, I always found time to get it done. Once I decided that getting in shape and being healthy was important to me, I decided I would have to find the time for it. It doesn’t have to be an hour; it can be a mere thirty minutes out of twenty-four hours. That little time can be found at different parts of the day, but I believe everyone can find what works for them. Once you pick a time, make a covenant with yourself to always honor that hour no matter what. Keep that appointment, renew it, and keep on fulfilling that promise. For me, it is early at the crack of dawn.
My alarm clock goes off at 5 am, but I get up at 5:30 am. That extra 30 minutes somehow does wonders for my soul. Although I still feel groggy, once I lower my feet to the ground, I can already feel the excitement of the impending run beginning to build. Sometimes, my running gear is ready to go but I go through my prep rituals, and fifteen minutes later I try to be out of the door. Worst case scenario, I want to be outside at 6 am. The air outside feels brand new, yes even in the city, and the streets are empty. I feel like I am part of a brand new chance in the world for the day as I head out. The music starts and I disappear into my own world, all that exists is the road and the machine of the human body.
Now, that’s my morning when everything is at its best. It doesn’t always turn out like that. Sometimes, I am dragging and feel tired. Sometimes it just feels too cold to run or my legs feel heavy for some weird reason. One thing I am sure of is that I’ll feel disappointed if I don’t keep my promise to myself, so I’ll just get myself to the road and most of the time I get lost in the run by the middle of the first mile.
It’s not easy to keep that appointment all the time and sometimes life interferes with everything, but somehow I make sure it happens. It does help to set a goal to aim for, especially something that seems out of reach. My goal this year is to run at least 2 miles every day this year and it’s helping me get up in the morning. One of my weaknesses is that I hate disappointing people, so publishing my goal has tied me to it and has kept me locked in. Registering for races also helps to sharpen focus and I am enjoying the journey more than anything. Another lucky accident for me was discovering the November Project tribe in Baltimore. Joining the tribe at the 6:30 am workouts definitely help in more ways than I can say. The motivation from group workouts adds a different layer that athletes get from teammates, although this is the first team that I have joined that actually hugs each other just because.
Where I run
I run in Baltimore and I enjoy running on the city streets. Like the city itself, the terrain can get a little challenging; well at least for a city. Running the city definitely prepares you for any hilly challenge you might encounter in a road race. The truth is that I enjoy running different parts of the city and enjoying it. I try to show all the eye-catching sights of the city on my Instagram page and hopefully, people can see it from my loving eyes. Running has definitely made me appreciate the city a lot more and I am still amazed. My current favorite route, of course, it changes, is running piers of the harbor from the inner harbor to Canton. Or is it running from M&T stadium to Fort Mchenry then Federal Hill Park? Maybe it’s running Charles Street from Downtown to Hopkins University at Charles Village and back down. Oh…running around Lake Montebello to the Morgan campus and back, Oh yes….Druid hill park with the hills in the back roads is a lot of fun….then………
Thank you, Kayode for sharing how you stay active, healthy, happy, and why you run.