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Why do you run??



As the running season for the year 2013 begins, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the subject. I am not a great runner.  Heck - I started running only a few years ago… well past my 35th birthday.  So this is not an attempt to guide or teach or inspire.  I don't have any specific objective in mind as I am writing this.  I am just sharing my thoughts on how I feel when I run long distance which others could possibly relate to.


I have been running relatively long distances (5K, 10K and 21K) for a couple of years now. When I run a half marathon, I take longer than a seasoned runner.  A seasoned runner takes around 2 hours (And here I am excluding the seriously good runners who do it at a much more rapid pace) while I take 25 minutes longer.  But if you think about it… I am on my feet for that much longer.  So in that sense, taking longer to finish is better than finishing faster - right? 

What do I think about when running…  Deep philosophy?  Something that has been occupying my mind?  My next big business plan?  I am spending 150 minutes with myself, should’nt I  be spending it usefully ?.  The answer, sadly, is that I am not thinking of anything in particular.  So it is either a waste of mind space or it could be the highest form of meditation !! :-)


Music… I have tried running with music and without music. And interestingly I prefer running without music.  I like to hear myself pant and puff – makes me feel the effort with every fibre of my being… music is actually very distracting for me.  And I am not alone in this - I hear that most  distance runners hate the ipod.


Some runners I know get inspired by the scenery around them.  When they run near mountains or other scenic places, they go "Looking at the scenery sends a wave of happiness through me".  Well for me, it does zip ! I see random mountains and trees - but no happiness, sorry.  


The best thing about the human brain is that we forget things.  Everytime I finish a particularly tough run, I tell myself - never again.  And 12 hours later, I forget how hard it was - and start thinking of the next run I want to do.  I hear childbirth is something like that !  By extension, I think all distance runners must be forgetful morons, right ? :-)
Distance runners talk about hitting the wall at some stage of the run.  For me it is not quite the wall, it is almost like a crocodile is hanging on to my legs.  Just can't seem to lift my legs.  The problem becomes more acute when you run real slow.  Because your mind knows that you are just 1 step away from stopping or walking.  Whenever the crocodile gets hold of my leg, I try to lift my legs higher and run.  Counter-intuitive, but works for me !

How do I motivate myself to push myself more?  I device little competitions in my mind.  Sometimes it is between my left leg and my right leg.  Other times, I tell myself I am running for the sake of my family members - the next step is for my wife and then my daughter and then my son ......  Once I do that, I cannot give up on them - can I?  I know this sounds crazy, but hey - works for me....

Right after I finish a half marathon, what is the single overriding feeling that I have?.  Has to be triumph and sense of achievement, right?  Not really - for me it is mostly just mind numbing exhaustion !  Any thoughts of achievement comes much much later....

So - that is how I feel.  I would love to know how you feel about running?


Comments

  1. Hope all is well my friend. Look me up if you get to Boston. I've always been a jogger although not found I can stick with it consistently or at the distance to truly be a runner. But I am a fanatical keeper of my landscape and home construction projects. And I run hard. I am not sure where the motivation comes from but I push my body and mind to marathon levels. Sometimes I wonder what's wrong with me. What motivates a person who completed a 2 year reconstruction project for hell to return from his first vacation and demolish his kitchen on July 6th in the heat of the summer (1 yr ago, thankfully that is behind me as of Dec 24th). Is it the activity that creates the stillness of our minds? Or are there other factors such as nesting and building a family in play. What are we running towards? It may be part of both but it is the mindless numbing feeling of grinding away at the task at hand that truly motivates me. I too have tried music but find it is more of a distraction. The engine noise of my commercial mower humming away for hours as I cut my lawn in two directions every time followed by powerful 2 stroke leaf blower and weed trimmer create a sense of achievement while cleansing the mind and flushing negative energy stored away. The real achievement for me comes from complete exhaustion and the occasional passer-by commenting on how beautiful my home from the street. But I often wonder because I am not sure achievement is the motivator for this insane level of drive. As I age I now must not act as the bull plowing down the next task, I have to start to consider what can be accomplished and more importantly consider the duration it will realistically take to complete the journey. This spring removing 40 tons of asphalt from an old driveway, building 75 feet of stonewall, and spreading 20 tons of top soil and grass seed was enough to carry me past July 4th. But I wonder what's next ;-)

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  2. Mike - very interesting perspective.
    I think there is value in purely physical hard labour. All of us have moved to desk jobs that are mentally demanding and our minds subconsciously seeks out the physical labour.
    And secondly, all these things - whether it is running or home improvement projects - are not to be looked at as means to an end, but as the end itself. What I mean to say is - we are not running towards the goal line. we are running because we like running.
    I have seen an elite athlete train and it was stunning to see that he exerts himself so much that he is almost on the verge of collapse every time he trains. To him, the training was the end in itself.....

    Best of luck for your projects and wish you lots more...

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  3. Great perspectives ... I agree, running is not towards something, but running itself that is the end. When I run (I have done a few 5Ks and 10Ks, am training for a half-marathon), it is just for the pure joy of finishing, even when doing it is agonizing. And to get the feeling that if I can do that, I can do pretty much anything else if I set my mind to it ...

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