“Why do you run?”
This is a question that I get a lot. Many runners field this question a lot.
“Why do you want to run during pregnancy?” This question follows. Actually, this question is rarely phrased as a question: “OMG, you are still running?!” is what this one often sounds like. I believe these people are actually asking me why I want to run while pregnant.
So why? Why am I working hard to stabilize my hypermobile SI joint so I can continue to run during my pregnancy? Why I am I determined to squeeze out as many 15km long runs as possible before I hit 25 weeks of pregnancy, at which point, my obstetrician will cap all runs at 60 minutes? Why was I thrilled to set a “pregnancy PB” of 47:40 at 20.5 weeks pregnant at the December 9 Heart and Sole Club 10km Race?
The Child Studies class at the school where I work recently asked me to do a Q & A session where students could ask me about my pregnancy. After speaking about running during pregnancy, a student asked me if I was addicted to running. I appreciate his curiosity and inquiring mind. People have asked me this before. People, non-runners, want to ask runners this question.
In considering my answer, I have to wonder why people seem quick to equate addiction with running. What is it that makes their mind make that connection? Do they ask soccer players if they are addicted to soccer? Do hockey players get asked as often as runners if they are addicted to hockey? I don’t know the answer to this; I’m not a hockey or soccer player. But I wonder if there something that is so confusing about distance running that makes people question my sport. To associate it with addiction.
I no longer have a quick or simple answer to these questions. I no longer need an answer. And maybe there is no answer that will satisfy the people who ask.
As someone who loves to write, I appreciate other runners’ attempts to capture their answers for demanding crowds. Here are three that I appreciate most.
The plight of the 2:14 to 2:18 US Marathoner: Why do you do it? by Sage Canaday
You don’t do it for the money. You don’t do it for the fame or glory. You don’t even do it because you think you can make the Olympic team or beat the Kenyans/Ethiopians. So why? Why do you keep sacrificing your time and energy towards something that most of society would consider a selfish and frivolous endeavor? Why do you go to bed early on Friday and Saturday nights in the prime of your mid-twenties? Why do you run 120 miles a week in the cold wind, rain and snow? Why?
Because you can. Because through years of racing and hard training in high school and college you discovered that you had a knack for something. You achieved high enough in one aspect of your life enough to be considered as belonging to the top 1%. You decided to set the impossible goal of seeing how close you could get to your full potential in something quantifiable. And in the process you realized that you are a part of something bigger than yourself…you are a part of the depth of American distance running,
It isn’t the path that the “practical” person would take. It is a road full of risk and a high rate of failure. But in the end it doesn’t matter if you meet your ultimate performance goals because at least you tried. You took the bull by the horns and sought out on a journey that most wouldn’t dare to embark on. You believed strongly in something and decided to act upon that belief.
Read more here:
A blog that I quote often, The Logic of Long Distance, also offers a lovely narrative on this question.
Why I Run by Jeff Edmonds
I can’t speak for anyone else, but at a certain point the experience of running surpassed in value, and by a pretty wide margin, my desire to make sense out of it.
I don’t know why I run. I don’t know why I race. I don’t know why I compete. I don’t need to know. Because running means more to me than curiosity. It goes deeper than knowledge. I run. I compete. I move on down the line. I’m a runner.
For us runners, the question of “why” is pretty moot. Not because it may not be interesting, or important, from a certain point of view, but because we’ve left the question of the meaning of running behind. After all the questions have been asked, and all the answers given, in spite of the disagreement on essences, physiology, rationales, training strategies, trail running, road racing, i-pod wearing, mid-foot striking, turnover cadences, arm carriages, Jack Daniels, Arthur Lydiard, 20 miles a week or 100, 5k or the 50k, whether it’s really the Miles of Trials or the Trial of Miles, after all the words have been spoken and keyboards have been pounded, meanings given and ideologies subverted… After all this, we runners bend down and tighten the laces, open the door, brace for the cold and are renewed: another godawful, glorious, and meaningless 8 miler.
And finally, a short quote circa 1948 from the late, great Emil Zatopek- a runner who I love reading about (I especially enjoyed this short, sweet and compelling bio about him).
“If one can stick to training thought many long years, then willpower is no longer a problem. It’s raining? That doesn’t matter. I’m tired? That’s besides the point. It’s simply that I have to.”
I have a very short collection of existential threads, the first things that pop into my consciousness, when I try to capture my ‘why:’
Because I love to.
Because my body knows what to do: pregnant or not.
Because the hard work pays off and I love the hard work and I love the pay off.
Because my hard work has helped me excel, be good at something.
Because I love the camaraderie.
Because it’s part of who I am.
Because it’s brought a lot of joy to my life and lets me be more joyful in other areas of my life.
Because it makes me a better Erin.
Have an answer to “why do you run”? Let me know!