“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day.
It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?'” – Peter Maher
No one really asks me why I run. I guess they pretty much assume that they know: my cholesterol, weight loss, heart health etc. All valid reasons, and certainly ones that I would list. I guess the easiest way to talk about why I run is to describe what happens on a long run.
I usually ‘run long’ on Saturday morning (sometimes Sunday if the weather is bad). The first few miles are generally fine, and I enjoy the feeling of moving and exercising. After a while your body starts to say (think Lumburgh from Office Space): “Yeah. Steve we’re all set with this running stuff, so if you just could go ahead and stop now, that would be great. Thanks.” But I don’t stop because I normally have more miles to go. So I continue and my body keeps wheedling, and pleading and trying to get me to stop somehow. My body negotiates with my mind. “Stop right here,” it says, “and we’ll run extra miles next week to make up for it.” But I just keep moving. This is when the voice shows up. It tells me that I’m too old for this, and that I’m way too slow. But I keep moving. It points out the guy who just ran past me, who is twice my age, and twice as fast. But I continue to run. It reminds me of everyone who made fun of me in gym class or at recess or at any organized sport that I failed do to well at. Yet one foot keeps coming down in front of the other. It recounts all the things that I’ve done wrong in my life, and the bad choices that I’ve made. But I go on running. Eventually the voice shuts up, and there is only the sound of my breathing and my feet hitting the road, and I complete the miles that I have set before myself. As I walk back to my car, sore and sweaty, I allow myself a feeling of triumph. I am a gladiator leaving the arena battered but victorious, and each time I face them, my opponents grow weaker. And quieter.
It is said that running is as much about mental toughness as it is physical, and I believe that this is true. Not only is it the toughness to push your body past the point where it no longer wishes to go, but to have the courage to face yourself and the crap that you put in your own way. To test yourself and see what you’re really made of again and again. Some people would rather not know what they’re made of, and I was one of them. It’s certainly a scary prospect. But if you do, you sometimes find that you are made of stuff that is stronger than you thought, but sometime you’re not, and that’s okay. The joy comes from continuing when you could have stopped. At that point you’ve won no matter what your pace, or where you finish.