Sunday, October 30, 2005

Why Do I Run?

Why do you run? This is the question I get asked the most. And it’s the hardest question to answer.

Fitness is the most obvious benefit of running. That magnificent feeling when you can run up stairs without breathing hard? But I’ve seen runners suffering from all sorts of injuries still running. They’re not fit but they still run. Somebody put it very well once when they said “fitness is a stage on the way to becoming a runner”.

Staying in shape is another benefit. Losing weight and looking trim. But not all runners are slim and trim and they keep on running. There’s got to be something else that motivates runners.

Controlling stress. Running is supposed to reduce stress and it does. But is that enough reason to keep running?

What other reasons can there be? The feeling of accomplishment. The fact that it’s fun or social or challenging. There’s a little bit of each of these but none of them is enough to answer the question.

I don’t think there’s a simple answer. There are probably as many reasons as there are runners. I have noticed that runners tend to be active, achievement oriented and individualistic.

Maybe it’s one on those questions that can’t be answered. Like why are we here? How big is the universe? Why does a brown cow eat green grass and give white milk?

If you are a runner you will know it. You will feel that passion that makes you keep running whether it’s on your own or with others, whether you run races or your own routes, whether it’s every day or once a week or whenever.

Maybe it’s as simple as “I run because I must”. Either you are a runner or you aren’t. And if you are, you will know it and you will love it.

The photo shows me in the background and my buddy, Brian Marshall, during one of the many river crossings during the Addo Elephant 100 Miler in the Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape of South Africa in April 2005. We finally finished in 28:33.

"Running is the classical road to self-consciousness, self-awareness and self-reliance. Independence is the outstanding characteristic of the runner. He learns the harsh reality of his physical and mental limitations when he runs. He learns that personal commitment, sacrifice and determination are his only means to betterment. Runners only get promoted through self-conquest."
-Noel Carroll, Irish track trailblazer