After 36 years of life, I finally get why people run. I mean, I always understood why people were running in the park or down the street, but this understanding was coupled with internal mockery. “That seems like a painful way to spend time.”

My mockery was probably more jealousy than malice. I grew up as a short and scrawny kid, and I loved to run. I was always running—but only for short distances. I only wanted to get from point A to point B quickly, and only if point A and point B weren’t too far from one another. Even when I ran track in school, I was built for sprinting, but distances eluded me.

Something changed recently. One day I woke up and decided to go run in the park like all those other people. I wouldn’t go to the gym that day, I would enjoy the outdoors and run.

I ran a lap around the park, walked a half lap, and repeated a few times. This equalled out to about three miles total. I felt like absolute death. I was panting and gasping, and long dormant muscles screamed out in pain. I got home and didn’t work out for the rest of the week because it hurt to move my legs.

But here’s the thing. The next day, even as I was groaning in pain, all I could think about was the next time I would be able to run again. And I totally did it again. The next time it didn’t hurt so much. And the time after that it didn’t hurt at all and I ran even farther.

I know this story isn’t going to come as a surprise to any runners out there. But this was huge for me. I love the outdoors, and I love any kind of exercise that doesn’t have me looking at a digital distance counter every two seconds so I can mentally determine when I’m allowed to stop moving.

I’ve been running regularly for well over a month now. I wouldn’t say that any fraction of a marathon is in my future, but somehow distances don’t feel as unsurmountable as they used to.

Maybe I found out how to make running work for me, or maybe I just never really gave it a good honest try. Whatever the case, I absolutely love the times I get to run in our park. I love feeling the little aches in my muscles for the rest of the day, and knowing that my body is alive. It took me over three decades, but I get it now. I get why we run.