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1 August 2011

Why Run?

Whether it’s 5k, 10k, half, full, or ultra, one question is often asked of runners: “why run?” It’s a tough question to answer, and the answer is likely to be vastly different from person to person. There are lots of reasons to run: health, pride, recreation, fulfilment, and the list goes on… [blockquote align=”left”]You need […]

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Whether it’s 5k, 10k, half, full, or ultra, one question is often asked of runners: “why run?”

It’s a tough question to answer, and the answer is likely to be vastly different from person to person. There are lots of reasons to run: health, pride, recreation, fulfilment, and the list goes on…

[blockquote align=”left”]You need a higher purpose.
That purpose has to mean more to you than temporary pain.[/blockquote]

Just yesterday morning my wife’s cousin’s husband – I’ll just call him Cousin Martin, completed the Death Race. It’s a 125km course with 3 mountain summits, 17,000 feet of elevation change, and a major river crossing. And it all has to be done in under 24 hours. For many, that seems just a bit crazy (or maybe a whole lot of crazy). Here’s what he’s said about the mental preparation that goes into such a feat:

“…how do you hold on to your sanity as you attempt to push your body WAY beyond what it is agreeing to??

1) You need a higher purpose.
2) That purpose has to mean more to you than temporary physical pain.”

I completely agree. Whether you’re training for 5k or an ultra, there needs to be something that drives you, or you’ll never accomplish your goals.

While there are many purposes, I don’t think all of them are equal. Or at least not all of them will continue to be fulfilling. If you’re running to lose weight, what happens after the weight is gone? You’ll need to change motivation. If you’re running for glory, what happens when you reach the top (although it’s more likely that you’ll realize that you’re unlikely to reach the top)? You’ll need to change motivation.

I think motivation needs to run deeper, straight to your core.

I’m privileged, because I actually enjoy running. Many runners, surprisingly, don’t. Their motivations vary, of course, but are always necessary, because the actual act is not satisfying for them. And while I do enjoy the run, the pain of pushing myself on speed workouts, the pleasure of an easy-going long run, the thrill of a competition, I’ve realized that my own motivations run deep as well.

As a kid I was severely asthmatic, landing in the hospital more than once in an oxygen tent. I was picked on for the better part of my childhood school life. So for me, it begins with a need to prove myself, if only to myself. To know that I can do what I set my mind to. To go beyond the expectations of others, the limitations of my past. Ultimately, though, that motivation has faded.

Now it’s a mixture of things – keeping healthy, relieving stress, being part of a community. But beyond all that is the need to become broken, move past the pain, and be changed by the experience. It may sound somewhat masochistic, but by pushing the limits, by making myself rely on forces deep within and those beyond myself – my faith, my friends, my family – I know that I learn more about me than I could in any other way. I become a different person. A better person.

In the end, that’s why I run. Why do you run?

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