Okay, so this really isn’t a treatise. It’s barely an essay. It sounds better than “Why we run: A string of nonsensical drivel.” At any rate, this is a question I like to ponder. Why do we run? What is it about the physical act of placing one foot in front of the other over a given distance that is so damned addicting? What drives us to do what we do?
Some would suggest we’re evolutionarily and biologically designed to run. It’s known as the “running man” theory. The oversimplified version goes something like this: Humans evolved as long-distance runners for persistence hunting. Persistence hunting is the process of chasing an animal to death. While the logic of this theory is very appealing, it is the primal sense of satisfaction and inner-peace I experience after a very long run that sells this theory for me.
Others suggest we run as a form of therapy or self-medication. Us runners are a little messed up. For us, running serves as an escape. Or maybe it serves as a masochistic penance. At the very least, running serves as a stress reliever. I like this idea, too. I certainly have my own inner-demons that seem to be silenced while running. Sometimes that takes the form of dissociating from my inner turmoil. Sometimes it allows me the solitude to work through problems and issues.
Of course, some run for fitness. That fitness may manifest itself as losing weight, lowering blood pressure, or reducing the probability of heart disease. While I like the fitness benefits of running, it is a a secondary benefit at best. Maybe even a tertiary benefit. Running does allow me to pretty much eat what I want, which alleviates the cognitive dissonance from eating 3,000 calories worth of pizza in one day.
Some people run to gain the approval of their peers. If you are relatively fast or run relatively long distances, the amazed comments from friends and family can be a powerful ego boost. I have to admit, I like the response people give when they find out I run very long distances. I generally consider myself to be fairly humble most of the time, but that’s motivated by my desire to inspire others. Deep down, I like knowing that I have done what few people even consider possible. Never mind the fact that I’m one of the slowestin any given race…
Running is a fraternity, and some will do it simply to belong. As humans, the vast majority of us have a strong desire to be part of something. Running affords that opportunity. Running itself gives people endless topics of conversation. We talk about training, racing, diet, injuries, shoes (well, some of you guys talk about shoes), and clothing. We also share the bond of mutual suffering in the waning miles of races. All of these experiences bond us; they create a family. It feels good to be part of that family.
Some people actually make a living off this. Running can be very lucrative. If you are fast, there are plenty of corporations in existence that would love to slap their logo on your chest. Even if you are not fast, there are other opportunities to make money from running. I’m starting to get a taste of this now with the exposure of this blog, my website, and my book. For some, making money off your hobby is the pinnacle of success. For me it is scary as Hell. Nothing drains the intrinsic joy of a hobby like cold, hard cash. A quick study in the power of secondary reinforces will reveal a disturbing trend- as soon as the focus shifts from fun to profits, the hobby becomes a job. I’ll write about my solution to this problem later.
Running can be a method to achieve personal goals. In his book “Ignore Everybody”, Hughtalks about all of us having our own personal Mount Everest. At some point in our lives, we all have to give it one serious shot. Otherwise we will be burdened with the regret of never having tried. For me, this is a major motivator. My Everest changes. Right now, it is the Burning River 100. I failed to climb that Everest last time. THAT fuels my current fire.
Each of us has our own reasons for running. Some are acutely aware of the reasons, others only have a vague understanding of their own motivation. What do you think? Why do you run?