Why I Run.

October 9, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized 

5:45 a.m.  It’s rainy, and cold.  The alarm goes off.  On a Sunday.

Why? Why do I do this?

The short answer is, if you have to ask me why, I won’t be able to explain it to you.  I could tell you why, I’m physically able to articulate an answer.  But it won’t really explain why anyone does this.

I think the obvious answer is health, right?  We want to be fit, we want to be in shape, we don’t want to end up on The Biggest Loser clocking in at 400 lbs?  But that’s almost too simple, too easy of an out.  You can stay in shape running 5 miles, doing a few 10k’s every now and then.  Collect your Turkey Trot t-shirt and go home.

Running is much more than that, and health really doesn’t factor into it a whole lot.  At least not the physical kind anyway.

Over the years running has proved to be one of my most unforgiving teachers.  I used to think that I liked to run because it was something only I could control.  No matter what, I could go out and run.  Everything else could collapse around me but I could always just run, as far as I wanted.  Bad day?  Go run.  Fight with the girlfriend?  Go run.  Run because I could control it, because no one could tell me I couldn’t.

Until you begin to realize you had no control over it, ever.  Your legs give out.  You feel nauseous for no reason whatsoever.  Your feet kill.  And these things happen all the time.  You’re forced to re-evaluate, re-think, cut training, and regroup.  And slowly but surely, you learn patience.  It seeps out into other parts of your life, and I think that’s where the benefits really come through.  Let’s say hypothetically you lose your job in the worst financial crisis in 80 years.  You can either wallow in sorrow, curse your injury, and watch from the sidelines.  Or you can lace your shoes up again and run.  You may not run as fast right away, but you’ll keep running and eventually you’ll hit your stride.

By now I find running has become a source of patience for me.  There are several instances I have considered taking one course of action, gone on a long run, and by the time that run was over, reason had taken over my thinking.  If you can’t calm down and act more rationally after three or four hours on a run, you’re just not going to.  This helps with that whole Sicilian temper thing.

The road helps bring release too.  There’s no Twitter, no Facebook, no “Digg”-ing anything, no text messages, emails, or phone calls.  (If you’re someone who does actually bring their phone, and update Facebook, from the road, you have issues.  Stop it.)  I truly believe we all need some time to unplug from the hyper-connectivity we all experience day in and day out.

I run because I get to see things others don’t.  If you haven’t been out around the bend of the Shedd Aquarium at sunrise, and watched the city light up in a beautiful orange burst of color at least once, you have no idea what you’re missing.  Seeing what others don’t, catching a new, different glimpse of what you thought you knew is one of the best benefits to this kind of lifestyle.

Haruki Murakami writes – “In long distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.

Not how fast you used to run, not how quick you made it to the finish, not how strong you were.  The entire way you used to be.  Running impacts every single aspect of your life.

This quote, more than anything I’ve read or heard about running, sums up why I run.  It also sums up the way I feel about life in general.  In running, as in life, it doesn’t really matter what we do relative to those around us.  What matters is that we try, every day, to make sure we’re better than we were yesterday.  This is my personal philosophy, the way I view the challenge, nothing more.  I will never win the Chicago marathon.  I’ve accepted that, along with the fact that I may not win any race I ever enter.  I did come close with the Warrior Dash though.  (See the part about patience.)  But if my training gets better, if my time gets better, if my time stays the same but I don’t hurt so much, these are all victories to be proud of.  I’m not nor will I ever be the perfect runner, friend, brother, son, and hopefully some day husband and father.  But that doesn’t matter, because no one is.  What matters is that you don’t stop trying to be a better runner.  Not faster, quicker, stronger – just better.  I think this is a struggle a lot of distance runners come up against – through injury and bad performance it may seem like you’re not making any progress.  But on some level, as long as you take it one step at a time, you look back and realize you’ve come farther than you ever thought possible.

There are obviously a lot of reasons why I run, and why I won’t stop running.  But in the end, I run because I’m a runner, and I don’t know any better.  See you on the lakefront.

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