I remember a few months back when Steve Runner talked about why people run which got me thinking why do I run? I have continued to think about it but have never really nailed the reason why, so this is my attempt to work it out.
What got me going on this topic?, well I was talking with a guy at work about him starting to run again. He had done two marathons and talked about the time commitment being his impediment, I agreed with him that it can be time consuming but it was dependent on your approach. I related my story of when I ran my second marathon injured it caused me to back off and forget about my race time I was able to really enjoy the day, my fellow runners, the course, the volunteers all aspects of the marathon event. That day I thought more about my family, my parents who had died many years earlier, my faith, my profession, living in Minnesota, my life, the beauty of Lake Superior and many other random thoughts, I had a blast. After the race, I thought about my finishing time which didn't thrill me but I quickly discovered that no one else cared about my time.
Ever since that day I started to modify my approach, granted it took multiple failures to reinforce the approach but basically what I do is assess my training and the course, the weather, and everything else that makes up your race day preparation and then I set my three time goals - possible, practical, tolerable. I usually shoot for the practical time during the first 10 miles, reassess and then I adjust to either my possible and pick it up or go into disaster management and work on the tolerable goal. As an example of this, last weekend in Fargo, I ended up just backing off to finishing which was my tolerable goal.
I am not fast, nor do I worry about being fast but I am competitive and I do want to improve. I am not a former track/cross country person doing something that comes naturally. I always hated running as kid and young adult. In one of my first blogs I wrote about when I first started and why I ran that day but today some 17 years later why am I still doing it? I am sure I could be faster if I would be more committed to my possible time goals but I am also sure I would have had to sacrifice time with my family, my body to injury or just burnout from intensity of PR mania to achieve this goal.
What does this have to do with why I run, well actually everything, if I hadn't backed away from my early obsession with time goals and PR's my love of running would not have developed. Actually without discovering trail running, I am not sure that even the motivation of an upcoming marathon would have kept me going. I had gotten a bit burned out after the second knee surgery and having done Grandma's and Twin Cities so many times that I just wasn't excited about them.
Why trails? For me they allow me to mentally lose myself and yet discover myself. It is when I am away from the distractions of the roads that I am able to find this zone, it is not a runners high exactly but a runners discovery zone. The time floats by, the pace isn't always pushed but sometimes it is. I have seen coyotes, turkeys, owls, hawks, bald eagles, loons, herons, geese, ducks, bluebirds, many more birds, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, beavers, muskrats, possums, deer, a few too many snakes and thankfully no bears, cougars or wolves. I hate when I almost step on snakes, the only consolation is we don't have too many in Minnesota just enough to catch your attention.
Some people think I run because of my parents dying in their 50's, so maybe I run for my health. I am sure I run to stay in shape and to control my weight but there are many other things I could do for that which I don't do so I don't think that is it. I think I run marathons because I love the challenge and the lack of predictability but do I run so I can do marathons or I do marathons because I run? Maybe I run because I think it keeps me young, it keeps me motivated, removes stress, because non runners can't understand why I run (so it allows me to be different), maybe it's all of the above or maybe I don't really know why I run.
I think that the bottom line is that I run because I can and I enjoy it when I do and I always feel better afterwards, nothing more complex than that...........