@Canadian_RUNner tweeted this the last couple of days, Y do u #run? I thought about it and was going to respond. But, as I tried to compose my 140 character response I realised that my response, in the abstract, and in the terse language needed to fit, would not really explain anything. In all fairness, as another distance running, I’m sure he would get why I run, but I’m not sure many others would. More than that, the question really made me think about it.
I started running because I had spent many years after I got out of the Army doing as little physical activity as I could. I used my knee pain (PFPS, runners knee) as an excuse. As I slipped further and further into the effects of PTSD and self medication(drinking 1/2 a litre of Jack Daniels a night) I cared less and less about myself(depression). When I stopped drinking and took a look at myself I was not happy with what I saw. I was also very angry, not at any person or thing in particular, just angry at the world.
My first run since 2000 was around my block. Every joint in my body screamed, my lungs burned, and I was frustrated with myself. All I wanted to do was get myself in a little better shape than I thought I was in. Turned out I was in worse shape than I thought and I had a long way to go. I ran to relieve stress, to work out anger, to feel better about myself.
As I kept running my distances got longer and longer. The anger was gone. I hit the point, around 10-12 miles, where I needed to eat something while running and had to carry water with me. This was a new challenge, something else to overcome. When I started hitting serious distances last year (13-19 miles) I seriously started to wonder how far I could go.
So, the anger was gone, stress relief is still there, but not near as much since my general health had improved. As for feeling better about myself, well, that comes and goes. I injured myself pretty good last November, bruised the heck out of my foot and pulled some muscles. This, along with a very cold winter, kept me from running much. Starting back seriously this spring I have struggled with why I keep doing this, what’s the point?
On a run in California I gave up. I just didn’t feel like running. A day or so later I made myself get back out there again, and again. But I was still struggling with why. Why keep it up? I’m not fast, not up to marathon + distances, by any descent runners standards I suck. So why do I bother?
Two reasons. First, time alone in my head. There is something Zen-like about when you hit that point of conditioning that you can just run for a long time and not need to think about running. Your body just goes. This frees up your mind to think things over in a way that nothing else compares to. I find that it really allows me to focus on things, gives me time to talk to God about what’s on my mind, and this is really helpful. Second, is the challenge. I’m not going to break any records except my on PB’s, and that’s fine. I really enjoy finding new trails, seeing things from new angles, pushing myself to do more.
In the end it’s a journey that changes destination as you go. For now, that’s why I run.