Hank Pantier

Why I Run

Hank Pantier
Why I Run

I’m not a natural athlete. Far from it, in fact. So far that when I was in kindergarten, I actually flunked PE! I know, right! Crazy. First off, who flunks PE at the age of 5? Secondly, who actually flunks a 5 year old?!

But perhaps my first real failing in life was actually a blessing.

 
 

After all, it was this “U” (unsatisfactory) that set my parents into motion. Determined not to have a sloth for a daughter, they began enrolling me in a number of activities that would eventually change the course of my life: gymnastics, ballet, soccer, softball, swimming, biking, skiing and running. And of all those sports, only two have stuck with me for the long haul: skiing and running.

Neither of which am I all that good at… especially running.

 
 

To be honest, I would never self describe myself as a runner. Yet, it is the one activity that I have continued to do with some relative consistency for the past 34-ish years. Some years managing only a couple short runs here and there. While other years I manage to run and run and run… something like Forest Gump. 2015 happens to be one of those years.

And every time I get into one of those years, I think about running a lot and why I do what I do. What makes me feel that urge to get out on the trail? Why do I have to push my body to the edge and beyond normalcy? What keeps me going when every step hurts?

Even after hours that probably add up to years spent on the trail, I still don’t know the exact answer – what I do know, without question, is that I run:

Because of these two awesome people.

 

My father, who, FOR SURE, was not going to raise a sloth. An All State track runner in high school, my father taught me how to run. Literally. I had no idea how to breathe, how to pace myself, how to simply move. He spent hours forcing me to run… sometimes using it as “punishment” even though every time I had to run, he had to go, too. Teaching me how to find my rhythm. Of breath. Of body. Of flow. It was on those runs that I first began to understand what “zen” meant. To this day, I still hear my father counting me into my zenful flow.

And, my mother, who has no idea just how much she inspired me to become the “runner” I am today. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, I think somewhere around the 8th grade, when my mom started running. She was about 45-50lbs overweight and could barely make it out of the driveway. Yet, she continued to put one foot in front of the other until she had lost all of her excess baggage and then some. I watched as running helped transform her into the strongest, healthiest and bravest woman I knew. I remember she would come home from her morning jogs with stories of coyotes watching her from high atop the clay banks. And then I watched as she challenged herself in a way that I had never seen anyone do before- running the Hood to Coast Relay. Looking back, I realize this was my first experience of ultrarunning. Had I know then what I know now about how much it must have meant to her, I would have been there to see her cross that finish line.

Because of these three – the ultimate mountain runner dogs: Bella Rose, Mesa Rae, and River Monster.

 

These little lovelies have helped me through some of the darkest moments on the trail and in life. Constant teachers, they have shown me what it means to give every ounce of what you’ve got and then some. They’ve shown me unconditional love. Forgiveness. Grace under fire. And more than anything, they’ve taught me how to find joy in every moment, because never know when that one run will be your last.

Although two have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge and, at 15.5 years young, the third prefers long walks to runs these days, not a run goes by that I don’t dedicate a mile or two to my original trail running compadres.

Because of these fab ladies, my favorite running gal pals – Angie, Jenny, Sara, Amanda and Cara.

 

Whether they know it or not, these ladies inspire me everyday to get out there and slog it out. These are the ladies who when given a choice of going farther or calling it quits, always say let’s do a couple more miles and maybe see if we can push it up that hill. I cherish the moments we spend out on the trail together. Sometimes talking, sometimes not – but always cheering, pushing, motivating each other on.

Because of this foxy fella, MY HUSBAND, whose constant support of my long distance runs is truly amazing.

 

He inspires me everyday and has absolutely no idea how much the thought of seeing his lovely face at the next aid station keeps me going. His nurturing spirit, his kind eyes and the gentle way he never lets me quit. I hear his voice in my head throughout my entire run pushing me up every hill, reassuring me to go one more step even when I think I can’t. “C’mon babe,” I hear. “You got this. You can do it.” And for him, I take another step.

Ultimately, though, I run because I believe I CAN and my body WILL.

There are a lot of people in this world who simply don’t run because they think it’s too hard, too far, they’re too overweight, or they’re not a “runner”. I run for them, in hopes that maybe, just maybe, I might inspire one person to take that first step. To set that first goal and go for it.

And then there are those who physically can’t run – their bodies WON’T do what they ask. I run for those people, because so far in my life I’ve been blessed to do everything I’ve set out to do.

My mind has been curious enough to wonder if I could. My body has responded with yes I can. And my spirit has always said I MUST.

Like Melissa Etheridge sang: I. Run. For. Life.