WHY I RUN | Four Decades of Unexpected Friendships

The Rileys Trail Marathon, 2018

The Rileys Trail Marathon, 2018

Editor's Note:

If you're a part of the Ann Arbor running community, you probably know Tracey Cohen. A regular fixture at local road races, ultras, and group runs, Tracey's enthusiasm for running has been unbridled for over 40 years. In addition to being a standout runner, Tracey is also a prolific writer, author of two books, and the official reporter of the Ann Arbor Track Club. Here is an excerpt from her author page on Amazon.com: 

About Tracey Cohen

A lifelong competitive runner, freelance writer, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, I was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome at the age of thirty-nine. Sharing my own struggles and discoveries, it is my intention to empower others to learn, accept and find peace in our ever complicated neurotypical world.


By Tracey Cohen, Farmington Hills, MI

The mechanics; the fresh air; the freedom; the simple beauty of our sport; first and foremost these are thereasons ‘why I run.’

I was just a young girl, confused, afraid, alone; locked away miles apart from everything I knew when the wonder of running was first introduced to me.

Institutionalized at age eleven for reasons I was told to be true, I will never forget the unexpected gift bestowed upon me by the unusually kind staff person in an environment filled with harsh tones, cruel accusations, loud slamming doors and strangers insensitive to my hidden truths of which I could find no words to communicate.

Once released some years later, autism overlooked and buried deep, I took my newfound treasured ‘friend’ with me, and after nearly four decades, it has yet to leave my side or dull its edges. Instead, every year brings new excitement, experiences and challenges on surfaces and venues I likely otherwise would have never had the notion or the courage to explore in addition to the unforeseen personal and professional opportunities and invaluable connections I have had the opportunity to make with incredible people willing to look past my social blunders and rough exterior, all of which I was once told would never be possible.

2015 Gallup Gallop

2015 Gallup Gallop

While my legs may never carry me as quickly as I would like, I will forever be grateful to be able to run, a privilege in and of itself, and I try to allow myself to apply my own words in Lesson #3 of my book, Six Word Lessons on the Sport of Running – 100 Lessons to Enjoy Running for a Lifetime:
Speed a runner does not make.
Not all runners are elite and the elite are not all runners. Pace alone does not distinguish a runner or jogger. It’s the will and dedication to train and compete; to share your craft and passion; to experience and learn; to be the student and the teacher. Speed will come and go, but authentic passion is what makes a true runner.

Though the nightmares remain, and time has had little effect on dimming the disturbing memories of my years under lock and key, the byproduct of enjoying a lifetime of running is one I will cherish forever.

tracey with dog.jpg
Brent McDermott