Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why Do I Run?

The texture of the early morning dew,
Under my naked feet as I traverse
The green meadow that stretches out of view,
Is so sensual, it moves me to verse.
What would I do were I to lose running?
Denied the simple pleasure of motion,
My soul would wither, like a vine ailing
From a pestilence its youth does sicken.
The spirit would droop, the will to live flag,
Days would go by in utter agony;
Long, motionless hours would seem to drag:
Not a fate to wish on an enemy.
So every panting breath I now treasure,
Each step spent running I now hold dear.

I have often thought about this question over the years.

I though I knew the answer 15 years ago when I quit smoking. I took up running only as a means of weight control. For a year I ran the same 2 mile route 4-5 times a week. It was only when I increased the distance to just over 5K that I started feeling the effects of what people refer to as The Runner's High. More about what may be responsible for this feeling here on Scott Dunlap's blog. I was hooked.

These days, after almost 15 years of constant running, I have come to realize that it is more than mere endorphins or anandamide in my brain that compel me to put sole to earth and cover long distances. Here are some thoughts. Would love for you people out there to add your own experiences.

The Horizon & Nature
Running is about using one's own power to achieve something.

All human actions have "horizons". Man's desire to explore resulted in that first pair of feet that went past the edge of the forest or across to the other side of the valley. It is in our questing nature to see what lies over the far line dividing the Sky from the Earth.

Running is as elemental as it gets in our need to take on Nature mano-a-mano. No mechanical aids. No fancy gadgets. Just the strength in our legs, the desire in our hearts and the motivation to fuse those two together.


Master & Commander
Above all else, it is a journey, a voyage of discovery.

Like Columbus, I too set out, at the start of every run, not knowing what gales will batter my spirit or what waves will crash against my frail body. All I leave with are the strength of my body and of my mind. On that journey I will encounter ferocious storms that will sap strength. On that journey I will encounter beautiful islands that will lift my spirits. I am my own Master and Commander. I am a sailing crew of one.

I will come out of the ordeal stronger, both in mind and in body.

Running Is Life
Every tribulation that we take on in life makes us that much stronger. Running symbolizes life for me. Running teaches me how to live life as it should be lived - with enthusiasm, courage and an "always-can-do" attitude.

I used to advise the runners I coached about how running and life are interchangeable. The lessons learned from one are entirely applicable to the other.

Many lessons has running taught me. How tough I am. How frail I am. How beautiful Earth is. How fortunate I am to be able take on Nature and yet be a part of it. How naively confident I am at the start of a 50-miler or a 100K. How proud I am at the end of having conquered yet another summit. How blessed I am that I am part of a larger community that feels like I do.

6 comments:

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Rajeev, this is a beautiful, inspiration post. These last few weeks being unable to run, I have felt dead. No spark of life, no energy. It meant so much to me this morning to get up and go through my early morning running routine and feel my body move. I run because it gives me focus and direction. I care not about how I look, or what people think of me, but only about my system - am I hydrating right? am I fueling correctly? What can I give my body right now to keep it going? I also run to discharge emotion. Every step I take leaves anger, sadness or angst behind. It's a dance of movement, it's an expression of feeling. It's life itself.

Ultrarunning in particular has taught me how to keep going in life. Just put one foot in front of the other, and this phase will come to an end. It will hurt - and whatever hurts at the beginning is guaranteed to not be what hurts at the end. I can move through pain, I can stay alive through pain, I can thrive through pain.

backofpack said...

Angie suggested we scoot over here to read this beautiful post. You've found the beautiful words to describe what we do - between your post and Angie's comment, I'm not sure there is anything I can add - only that running makes me feel free.

Rajeev said...

Angie,

How beautifully you write about your problems and the solution you have found - running.

In your darkest moments, take solace in the fact that yours will be the victory in the end. Your indomitable spirit WILL emerge victorious in the battle you are in now.

Every step you take, walking or running, is bringing you that much coser to eventually being able to run. Picture Angie 6 months or a year from now doing a 50K race, looking back at today and her problems and how she staved off depression by reaching deep inside her to that Rock that lives within ... You will start that 50K a much stronger and wiser person (about yourself) than you were last year or even today.

The new Batman movie has a line I liked. It's something like "Why do we fall? So we can pick ourselves up and continue". You are in the process of getting up right now and you will only be the stronger for it.

Keep on moving.

Rajeev said...

Backofpack,

Thank you very much.

nikki said...

I loved your post, and I am glad to be a part of the larger community that feels the same way you do.

AV said...

Rajeev:

This is the most common question asked of runners by non-runners. Why do you run? Why do you put yourself through so much pain?

Running is meditation for many runners. There's a certain clarity of mind that one gets as one approaches their physical limits.

Another reason is so that I can eat as much as I want to :-)

-av