I think it takes a certain type of person to be a distance runner but, at the same time, people run for a variety of reasons. In the end they all endure the same during training and racing. Then there are the people who look at runners and ask “Why? They must be crazy!”
They just don’t get it.
Why do I run? Not quite sure to be honest. I am not sure if it is some sick part of me that, deep down, enjoys the suffering and pain. Or, maybe it is external and I enjoy the Band of Brothers environment formed with the people you train and race with. I like to imagine it is battle between both. The obligation to meet someone for a training run just so you are in better shape to beat them in a race next month.
Maybe that is it: I am competitive and running has a direct correlation between work put in and rewards returned. I grew up bike racing and was often frustrated that at the end of a 60 mile race I was cut off or pinched from moving forward in the sprint for the line. Even worse, a flat tire! Running is stripped down, bare bones competition. Convincing yourself you can endure a little more pain so you can you beat the guy who thinks he can out kick you. (HA! Yeah right, watch this buddy.) Success only comes from effort not technology or malfunctions.
If my love for running only came from competitiveness, then why am I cranky on days I cannot run and happiest on days I squeak in 20-30mins knowing I’ll be late to dinner? Maybe I am addicted. -Well, yeah, I’ll admit I am addicted.- If running were a person it would be the shrink I see 6-7 times per week. But, why running? Why not swimming and biking? I used to find the same pleasurable outlet with these sports but, running has stood the test of time.
Those sports require equipment and a production just to get out the door. Running requires next to nothing and no planning. It could be running fits best into my busy schedule and travels well. I cannot think that is it because I think I would crave the preferred exercise Monday through Friday. There is just something about the groove I settle into on a hot summer night, with the sounds of my footsteps echoing off of the fence to my left keeping me company as I race a thunderstorm home.
I wonder if it is primal. Humans are incredibly efficient at running distances. Our bodies were built to metabolize, thermoregulate and rebound better than most mammals on earth. Our ability to mobilize and process complex molecules, such as fat, is second to none! I might be better connected to the primal instincts than those who ask “Why?”
A rebuttal to those who cannot find the inherent joy of running could be “Why not?”. I suppose that is paraphrasing the great George Mallory, first Brit to climb Mt Everest, who was quoted as saying “Because it’s there!” when asked “Why climb Mt. Everest?”
Another great, Bill Bowerman, was somewhat of a philosopher himself. He referred to “the meaning necessary to stay on this team [University of Oregon]”. I might broaden that to the “meaning necessary to remain focused on a goal.” Running will always offer endless opportunities to set goals but there has to be a meaning to pursue them.
Running is a loyal friend that is always there: daring you, laughing with you and at you, tearing you apart and putting you together, and allowing you to free the beast inside.
Why do I run?
Because I am crazy but, because you have read this, you probably are too.