The more I run during lunch breaks etc, the more my work colleagues ask me that question – “Why do you run?” Everyone has their own reasons for running. Some people want to get in shape. Or to get fit. Or to compete in races. Or to escape their demons… For every runner you ask, all will probably have a slightly different reason. And some will probably lie about their real reason. Really I think it will always be a fluid combination of reasons.
For me personally, it is definitely a mix of the following:
I am quite solitary by nature, and running alone gives me some time and space to myself. I do not enjoy group runs, or big fun-run events. But running for an hour solo allows me the choice of whether to think of everything or nothing, to either take in my surroundings or block them out entirely – it is up to me. And I love it. I cherish those times.
I love the freedom running gives me to explore new roads/routes. Sometimes these are spectacular vistas at the top of a hill run, whereas other times they can be someting that anyone else might look at and think “meh”. Yesterday, for example, I reached an intersection of two quiet country roads – nothing spectacular. But for some reason it seemed to have an amazing calming effect – it was a spot I had never been to, the air was still, there were no cars or people, and the light was golden. I stopped in the middle of the road and took a drink from my water bottle, and took a moment to take in my surroundings. Without wishing to sound pretentious, it reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:
‘And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is” ‘ – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. A Man Without a Country
Related to this having the ability to reach places that not everyone can or will. For example, there is a route behind where my parents have a holiday house. It is a steep unsealed road for 7km rising to about 750m, then 10km winding around some peaks and back in a loop to the start. It is one of my favourite runs. However, my mum and dad will never see the views from there and that makes me sad. There are countless routes out there to be run, and I want to delay for as long as possible the moment when they ar closed to me as well.
Another attraction for me is the fact that it is somewhat empowering to know that I can cover a lot of ground in a relatively short space of time. This may sound slightly weird. But hear me out – if my car breaks down on the 20km country road between home and work (there are no buses), I am not stuck there helpless, I don’t have to call someone for help, nor do I have a very long walk. Instead, in less than an hour I can happily trot along back to work or to home (i.e. at most 10km) and get things sorted out. It is that feeling of ‘strength’ that is empowering.
And finally, perhaps there is a part that is an ego boost. The longer my Sunday runs are becoming fo my marathon training, I have to admit to feeling slightly superior to people around me. This is a very internal thing – I don’t tell people about my running (running stories are boring!), but quietly keep it to myself. It is a somewhat smug attitude that I am not proud of, but it is there in the mix.
That is not to say that every run is a pleasure. Some of them are a hard slog, where either the weather is terrible, or my body is lethargic, I am just waiting for the run to end so I can stop. But after every run, there is always some pleasure I can take from it. A quote I saw somewhere (I cannot recall where) summed it up for me:
I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days.
Yeah, pretty cheesy, but I like it!