Friday, January 7, 2011

Why do I Run?

This is a question that I've had a lot of trouble answering for a while.  After 12 years of this, and more specifically, after my return to running in 2007, I'm much more equipped to provide an answer.

Before giving the reasons why I run, it's probably easier to give the reasons I don't use.

Running is a great aerobic exercise and a great way to stay in shape.  Although I love being in shape and feeling healthy, I certainly don't need to run 70-90 miles a week to do it.  It's rather universally understood that the health benefits from running significantly drop off as mileage is added.  If anything, running high mileage is "less healthy" since it could increase injury risk.

Running has nothing to do with weight.  I've pretty much weighed the same for the last 8 or 9 years.  If anything, I could stand to gain a few pounds.  Though I try to eat "healthy" food, it's really only because junk makes me sluggish.  I don't even really count calories, I usually just check the box to make sure it's worth my time and money to consume.  And, whoever comes up with serving sizes is not a runner!

Now the good part, why exactly I do it!

I have never felt worse after a run than I have before, even after a bad one.  No matter how tired or stressed I am beforehand, I always feel rejuvenated afterward.  No matter how badly I want to skip a run, when I finally get my butt out the door, I'm always thankful.  Even after 12 years, this still holds true.

I can't imagine just living the "rat race," going to work, getting home, doing stuff around the house, watching TV and repeating it the next day.  Sitting in traffic, sitting at a desk, worrying about money and making more, none of it really adds to much.  None of it really makes me feel "alive."  Once I get that heart rate elevated, once I start striding, and when I'm flying over the ground propelled by nothing other than my own power, life feels real.  When the pain becomes nearly unbearable, and when I keep running through it, that is when I feel most alive.  It happens in the middle of speedwork, during the end of really long runs, and at random times during tempo efforts when the struggle becomes tough.  I have yet to find anything that replicates that feeling.

Running rewards those who work hard.  The PR has always been awesome.  To put in the training, execute the race, and cross the finish line hitting that goal time creates the greatest sense of accomplishment in the world.  No amount of money, worldly possessions, or advanced degrees can replicate it.  I don't have a clue why I'm more proud of my most recent marathon PR than I am of my recent successes at my job, but I've just come to accept it.

Those reasons certainly get me very close to the answer.  However, there are probably a lot of people that use those reasons, but most of those people probably wouldn't bother running at 2 in the morning.  I think there is still more.

I thrive on competition.  I have nothing but respect for runners of all levels.  However, runners near my ability and those in front of me are all targets.  I keep "unofficial" track of names and times and look forward to seeing certain faces at races.  Each year it seems I find 1 or 2 people right around my ability and we duke it out for most of the year.  So far, each year, I've left more and more rivals in the dust and set my sites on even tougher foes.  I love the mutual respect and extra motivation driven by competition.

I'm running to discover my ultimate limit.  It isn't enough just to run a bit faster than I used to.  I want to maximize my mileage and hit whatever speed my genetic makeup will allow.  20-30 years from now when I look back at this time, I want to make sure I have no regrets.  I know for a fact that giving running everything I have will leave me regret free.  I now wonder and debate every day whether I should have continued running immediately after High School and into college.  Maybe I could have gotten somewhere in the collegiate running scene or maybe not.  But, I won't let that happen again!  Even if I suffer a bad injury and end up falling off my high level, it will still be worth it because I'll know I gave it everything I had.

That is why I run at all hours and hit mileage between 70-90 miles a week when peaking.  That is why eventually, I hope to hit mileage comparable (though probably still less) to elite athletes.  For all my toil, I get very little material reward.  I still need a real job and I still need to pay for shoes and race fees just like every other amateur runner out there.  Sure the occasional gift certificate and other random stuff is cool, but it certainly doesn't pay well relative to the work!  The motivation and drive has to come from within because all that external stuff won't be there at 2am when I have to run 4 miles because I'm working at 4am.

1 comment:

  1. I'm with you on the rat race. Eat, sleep, work repeat just doesn't cut it for me.