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Why I Run: Pushing myself beyond my wildest imaginations

I don’t run to be the best. I’m not breaking land speed records or battling the elites.

My running officially started on June 23, 2013. That was the day I ran my first 5K. I was 27 years old and had no real running experience. I wasn't looking to start a long running career. It was the summer and I wanted to do something healthy so I randomly selected a 5K and went for it. In 39 minutes, I completed my first race and was happy that I finished.

In my early 20's I had always toyed with the idea of running Broad Street or even a half marathon, but inevitably would back out. I had friends who would talk about running a race like the Broad Street Run and I felt left out. But the thought of running a long race like that seemed so difficult. After that first 5K, things were different.

I decided that I would run a half marathon — no matter what it took. I did some research on how a newbie like me could run 13.1 miles and found an 8-week training plan for beginners. As fate would have it, the Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon left me just enough time to put the training plan to the test.

I was overwhelmed to say the least. When I made the decision to try this race, the most I had ever run was 3.1 miles. This plan had me running 5 to 6 miles regularly in only a few weeks. It was terrifying.

When I officially started the training plan, someone very close to me regularly told me that it would be almost impossible for me to complete my goal. I respected this person's opinion and deeply cared for them, and in return was being told that I was an "idiot" for even trying this. I only had 2 months to go from my first 5K to a half marathon. They would constantly remind me that I should just give up.

But I didn't. I stuck to my training plan and took it one day at a time. I didn't do anything special except wake up every day and accomplish whatever mileage was on the plan for the day.

On September 15, I ran my very first half marathon! I went from 5K to half marathon in just two and a half months.

Fast forward a year and a half and I have finished three half marathons, two 15Ks, the Broad Street Run, a triathlon, Spartan Race and am training for the Chicago Marathon!

Adding running into my life has not been easy. The 6 a.m. wake up calls on race day, the Sunday long runs of 10+ miles, and the injuries (there will always be some sort of injury) have tested me both physically and mentally. Today, running means so much to me.

So why do I run?

I don't run to be the best. I'm not breaking land speed records or battling the elites. Heck, in the year and a half since running that first 5K, I have only placed in my age group one time, and that was during a small town run.

For me, running is about testing my abilities. When I first started running, I was someone who seriously doubted himself and never thought I could succeed in this area of my life. Running helped me to push myself beyond my wildest imaginations to see what I was made of. Crossing the finish line of every race I run is such a rewarding feeling. This sport has turned me into someone who is not afraid of any race distance or any other challenge that life throws at me.

Today, I continue to run because I look at what I have accomplished in running as a metaphor for life.

In 2013, I thought running a 5K was impossible. In 2015, I am training for a full marathon and running 5+ miles on a daily basis. All I did was make a plan and stick to it. Life is similar in that way. If you're faced with a situation that you want to change, all you have to do is make a plan and follow it. Regardless of how difficult things may be or the people who may doubt you, you have the ability to make changes in your life. I have completed runs that once seemed impossible.

At the end of the day, running just makes me a better person. Sure I enjoy the health benefits, and love a good challenge, but since picking up running a little over and a half a year ago I feel more positive about life than I probably would have without running. It shows me that no matter what challenges lie in front of me, through hard work and preparation, I can conquer them.

Chadd Balbi, writer of the Average Joe Runner blog, went from 5K to Half Marathon in 8 weeks in 2013 and hasn't stopped since.

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