I don’t really think about this question too often, but three things happened this week that caused me to stop and reflect on why I run. First, I read Brian Mackenzie’s Power, Speed Endurance, A Skill Based Approach to Endurance Training (2012); I am also currently reading Tread Lightly: Form, Footwear, and the Quest for Injury Free Running (2012). Both books and authors emphasize that humans are born to run (that will be the next book I pick up to read!). Coincidently, I also received a survey from a marketing company for feedback on a new Saucony print advertising campaign. There were only a few questions, but the final question was, “Why do you run?” I think it was multiple choice, but none of the choices really fit, so I chose “Other.” For those of you who know me, you are not surprised.
I spent some time thinking about the question off and on throughout the weekend. The third thing that happened was running in a local 5K road race a couple days ago. This was probably the 15th race of the year, it was near 80 degrees at the start, and I was just starting to feel like myself again after a week of-well- I called it allergies so people around me wouldn’t freak out, but I had a head cold-sneezing, coughing, congestion, the yucky stuff. This year I tried to run more local races with a cause, knowing that most, if not all, of the registration fees would go toward the cause. My race goal was simple-do not give up at the end and walk because you feel like you are going to die if you don’t take a break. I accomplished my goal, even though I thought I would die (my Tomtom cardio reported my heartrate the last quarter mile was pushing 200), my finish time was my average 5K time-nothing to write home about-but I finished 3rd in my age group for the race. More importantly, as I ran, I was thnking about Brian Mackenzie’s book and my technique-not about how fast I was running. I was thinking about why I was running, my form, my breathing, how my body was reacting to the hills, the flats, the uneven terrain. And as I felt like I was going to die in the last tenth of a mile I thought, “this sucks, but I know I can do better and I’ve got this.” I did not stop to walk and take a break.
Why do I run? I hated running in school, as a child, I was never a kid that just ran around, because I was slow. Who wants to be trying to catch up to your friends all the time? Instead, I danced and I pitched and ran short little bursts around the bases. I played field hockey in high school and ran indoor track, but I cut corners, I walked when I could, and felt like I was going to die. Little did I know that is what it is supposed to feel like when you run hard. If only someone had pushed me just a little and told me the more you run, the easier it will get, the more you push yourself, the faster you will get.
I run now because I can. I started running 3 years ago,a little bit at a time, and used Jeff Gallaway’s run-walk technique which is mentioned in the beginning of Tread Lightly. I didn’t know that was a technique-I just couldn’t run more than 2 minutes without taking a walking break. As my duration and mileage increased, eventually I was able to run half marathons; taking walking breaks became a part of my long runs.
I run when I travel, to explore places on foot. I bring a camera with me and take pictures while I run/walk. I look at roads and parks and trails as new adventures to explore: “I bet that is a great place to run!” I spend Friday evenings planning long run routes- uphills, downhills, pitstops, nutrition before, during and after. It is an event.
It is a love hate relationship, but mostly it is love. I find myself daydreaming about when I will have the opprotunity to run again. Yesterday after work it was 86 degrees and wicked humid, and my choices were to not run, or run for as long as Icould stand it-not more than 3 miles. I ran.
I run because it is faster than walking. Why walk when you can run? Some days are easy run days-time doesn’t matter, other run days are distance and time specific which means my run moves from the road and trails to the track or treadmill. Those runs are more of a feat of accomplishment than anything else, in the hopes of achieving a personal best time in a future race.
Some days it feels good to run, some days it feels great, and some days it feels simply dreadful. The good and great days far outweigh the dreadful days, but even on the dreadful days it feels good knowing you can go back out another day and try again. It is all about the trying.
I have hopes and dreams of becoming a faster and more skilled runner-why not? To become better at something you need to practice and just do it.
“You’ve got to have goals, and I suggest you write them down. If you write them down, you own them. Don’t waste your time,” Prefontaine advised. ‘To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Maybe Bill Bowerman and Prefontaine knew a thing or two.