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.