Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why Do I Run? That Is The Question

I'd like to recap a phone conversation from Thursday night.

Me: Hello?
Caller: Hi! How are you?
Me: Tired, actually. And how are you?
Caller: Tired? Why are you tired?
Me: Because I just ran 8 miles.
Caller: Why? Is someone paying you?
Me: *Laugh* No.
Caller: Well, was someone chasing you?
Me: No.
Caller: Then why did you run 8 miles?
Me: Good Question.

And that is the question. I've been asked repeatedly why do I run, why am I doing this. So, I am going to do my best to answer that question.

First of all, the thing that you must understand is that I run because of the way I feel after my runs, not during. Sometimes during a run it just plain sucks. It hurts and it's hard and you want to quit, but when you don't and you keep going to reach your goal, the sense of accomplishment is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. I feel more pride over my running than over anything else I have ever done in my life.

Second, I run because it is incredible and amazing to witness first hand our bodies ability to adapt to stress, adapt to training, adapt to what you put it through. Four or five short months ago miles 2-4 felt like miles 6-8 did Thursday. And if I keep at it, four or five months from now miles 6-8 will be easy and it will be miles 14-16 that will be the challenge. It is awe inspiring to witness the process occurring within yourself ~ amazing to watch your abilities increase ~ to continuously test your limits and surprise yourself by going farther than you ever thought possible.

Third, I run because I hate it. Huh? Say What? You heard me... I run because I hate it. It is my enemy, and I am going to beat it. The things with the most value are the things that I have to work the hardest for. I value my running because it doesn't come easy, because some days I do want to quit, because after some runs I swear I'll never lace up my shoes again. But it keeps calling me back, taunting me, begging me to defeat it, to prove that I'm not a quitter, that I can and will succeed.

Below is an essay I wrote in January 2003, when I finally decided that I wanted to get serious about my running. I ended up breaking my toe a few months into my training, and it's taken me until now to get serious again, but I think it sums up better than anything why I am doing this. I think those of you who know me well may be quite surprised at what you read. I think I see myself very differently than how others perceive me. Anyway....

Facing the Enemy Within

I don't know exactly at what point one begins to call one's self a runner, but I want more than anything to reach the point where I feel I have earned the title. One of my dreams has always been to complete a marathon. When I hear of other people who have done this, I am filled with such great admiration for them. One day I want it to be me that other people are admiring for accomplishing such an incredible feat.

For as long as I can remember I have wanted to run. I'm not exactly sure what it is about running that I find so appealing, but I have always been drawn to it. I can remember being a child and running through the streets of my neighborhood. When I was in junior high and high school, I thought about joining the track team every year when sign ups came around. I have started running on my own many times, and even ran a 5K once, only to quit before I really got going.

I don't know what holds me back, but I never seem to be able to stick with it. I don't feel like I have the drive, determination or discipline to takes to stick with running, or anything for that matter. The only things I seem to be able to accomplish in my life are the things that I have to do for someone else. Without someone looking over my shoulder, I can't seem to get things done.

More than anything, this is what I dislike about myself and what I most want to change. I guess running embodies this for me. It is the one area where this weakness is extremely apparent to me. Even though I really want to be a runner, I end up quitting every time I start to run and it makes me feel like less of a person. I always allow my lack of ambition and my fear of failure to stop me from getting what I really want.

I need to run to conquer it. But it isn't just the running that I want to conquer; it is my attitude towards life. I want to prove to myself that I can see this through to the end because I have never done that before. I want to overcome the lack of drive that I have allowed to rule my life until now. I want to know that I am able to motivate myself to accomplish my own goals. It is time for me to look defeat in the face and overcome it instead of run away in fear like I always have in the past.

I know that for me the challenge is a mental one and not a physical one. I know that even though it is something that I really want to do, it will be very hard for me to accomplish. But I also know that I will never truly be happy with myself until I do this. I don't just want to become a runner, I need to do it. I feel like if I can conquer running, then I can do anything.

I have always said that I want to live a life of minimal regrets. Years from now, when I look back on my life, I don't want to have a long list of regrets over things I meant to do, but never made the time for. For dreams I meant to make realities, but didn't. For challenges I wanted to overcome, but never found the courage to face. For goals I had, but never reached. I don't want to look back and regret never having done this. And I know that if I never run, I will regret it. I have reached my moment of truth. It is time to prove I can do this.

And that, Mr. Caller, is why I run!


  1. Hi there! You've never met me before but I wanted to tell you that you already have someone out there who is inspired by you and encouraged by your hard work. I came across your blog by accident while looking up my sister's. I was drawn by your blog's title, because i can relate to you so much. I took up running when I was 13 and have always been so drawn to it for just the reasons you described, but have had many obstacles and it has never come easy. I trained with the AIDs Marathon Training program in DC a few years ago and although I completed the marathon, I had to walk almost half of it, more like limp actually, because I have a chronic knee injury from my first year of running. I have been trying ever since but have also developed exercise-induced asthma so it seems like running is determined to be the ultimate challenge for me, representing so many others, just as it does for you. Just today I came back from a run, having experienced a few moments of that weightless light feeling like you're flying but also the symptoms of my asthma . Like you, I sometimes get so frustrated I wonder why I bother. But it keeps pulling me back, and I think it builds so much good character. Thank you for expressing in words thoughts I couldn't seem to find a way of expressing. It gives me renewed zeal and makes me want to run tomorrow. :) I think you sound like a great person and i admire what you've been doing and continue to do. Best wishes for your training!
    Feel free to email me back if you
    Sarah Doerrer

  2. I am a runner, who can relate to your story. I have been running seriously since 1994. I have run marathons, but I have also suffered injuries.

    It has been my dream to run the Boston Marathon, but I haven't been able to run the qualifying time. Now that I am 13 years older, I am in a new age category. I have run the time that I need to qualify, but back in 2003.

    I haven't done another marathon since then because I have been injured. Now I have a chance to do it. I just need to stay injury free.