Why do you run?
I would venture to guess that anyone who identifies as a “runner” has been asked this question more times than they can remember . I would even bet that this question was immediately followed up with a remark along the lines of “I don’t even like to drive that far,” “I hate running, I don’t understand how people can enjoy it,” “it’s bad for your knees,” or, my personal favorite, a story about the one time they trained for a run and they swore they would never do it again because of some permanent damage it caused.
I recognize that these comments are (usually) not intended to be mean spirited, and in many cases, may even be prompted by genuine curiosity. However, sometimes – intentionally or unintentionally – these comments come out more like accusations and I find myself on the defense. This defensive sentiment is exacerbated ten-fold when a running related activity has the potential to interfere with another activity or when you choose to run over doing something else.
Let me be clear- I am all about balance. There are certain things that are non-negotiables and running should always take a back seat to. The circumstances that I’m talking about here are those where you opt to go home after work instead of a happy hour with colleagues (because you have a long run the next morning) or you will have to be a little late to a brunch with friends because the only time you had open in the day was early morning (and you woke up at 4:00 a.m.instead of the normal 6:00 a.m.so you would be able to do both). We allow work, kids, dogs, appointments, and the like to be viable excuses (as they should be). So why does my decision to run become a choice that is any less important? My time is my time, the same way that yours is yours. Why should I be made to feel guilty because I wanted to do something healthy instead of sitting around and drinking mimosas?
I also shouldn’t have to argue about what running is doing to my body. I don’t walk around and interrogate others about why they do what they love (even when it’s unhealthy!) I don’t want to hear about how I’d be stronger, or more well rested, if I didn’t run so much. Running is non-negotiable. You are not going to convince me otherwise.
So why do I run?
It’s complicated. It’s multifaceted. It’s personal.
I run because it keeps me sane. It allows me to escape from the noise. To spend time thinking, undistracted. It provides validation in my life during times where I otherwise feel inadequate. It provides a focal point when everything else becomes too much to handle. It got me through those awkward years in high school. Through the bar exam. Through the toughest year(s) in my personal and professional life.
I do it because the friendships I have made throigh running have been invaluable. I do it because the people I have met through running know the real me. Raw. They see me with no frills and no makeup. At the early hours of the morning and in weather that no person in their right mind would be out in. They’ve seen me at my most vulnerable during the later miles of a training run where your body and mind just want to quit. They know all elements of my life (because what else do you talk about on a 20-miler) and they don’t judge. They are supportive. They “get it” (and provide free therapy).
Its not a means to an end and I don’t do it to “check off” working out from my daily to-do list. I I do it for me. Because it is me. I run because I am a runner. And it makes me happy. So please, if you are truly interest in my running – ask about how my race went (or if I have any planned). If you really want to know why, ask how I got started or what prompted me to take it up. But if you ask “why” I run- you may get more of an answer than you bargained for.