Winter is waning and I can feel Spring in the air. Notwithstanding there is a snow storm predicted for tomorrow which is threatening to drop another 6-8 inches of white anti-running material all over the roads. I was waxing a bit contemplative about running when I read an post on the Daily Mile from a fellow runner that has “lost her fire” for running recently. It got me thinking about why I run, why you run and why anyone runs.
When I meet someone at a party who also runs I am always interested to hear their motivations. There are plenty of people who do run as a daily part of their exercise regime, but many of them do not consider themselves “runners” at all. They just go out an jog and run a few miles and enjoy themselves… or not as the case often is.
Running is one of those odd sports because practically anyone can do it and it it doesn’t require a financial investment, special training or an expensive membership somewhere. When you look at why people are motivated to exercise, whether it be running, swimming, rowing or any other sort of activity, you will find a lot of different reasons. I think there might be some danger in picking motivations that won’t stand the test of time. Some goals, once met, leave you with a hollow feeling of underwhelming dissatisfaction. As the saying goes, “the joy is in the pursuit of the goal”.
Take competitive running for example. Signing up for races can be great motivation, but it also can be a sad, depressing and frustrating one if you have unrealistic expectations. Getting hyper-competitive about running is an easy road to Crazyville because there are always people so much faster than you. It doesn’t matter how good you are, there are people who are faster. I happen to work with someone who runs the Boston Marathon in 2:19, which is running 26 miles in 5:18 for each mile. Even when I was 18 running college cross-country and weighed 140 pounds I could not run a single mile that fast. Now I am 29 pounds heavier and 29 years older and believe me, it won’t ever be happening. So this is a sport where you can participate in a large group and still be competing primarily with yourself. Running is one of the few sports where you get completion medals for a reason. Just finishing a race is enough of an accomplishment that it merits some tangible sense of reward to match your internal sense of having met a worthy challenge.
So as I stare off into the distance of another year of running I ask myself why am I motivated to get out on the road for hours and deal with the elements, cars, people who hate runners, injury risk and just general loss of that most precious of commodities: time.
Right now I think the answer is that I still have unmet goals. Those goals provide me with all the motivation I need right now, but I am well aware that there will come a time that I will meet these goals. What happens then? Thankfully it will probably take 2 more years to realize my goals, so I do have some time to contemplate my strategy. But part of me wonders what will happen when I don’t have the current self-induced pressures driving me. Once I reach my genetic and age limited potential I will have the face the fact that I can’t and won’t get any better or improve anymore. At this point I have to hope that the sheer love of running will be sufficient to drive me forward and to ensure I can continue to be active in this past time that has so many benefits for physical and mental health.