Why I Run?

I woke up with legs like salt water taffy, barely pliable things that wailed with agitation as I bent at the waist and hung the weight of my torso over them. I wanted a sledge hammer to bang the knots out of them, to soften them up, to make them feel like flesh again instead of thick rubber. Perhaps I should call in some reinforcements, a masseuse to rough up the muscles in my legs, to make them return to their place of origin, and release the tension built up from too many miles without enough care on my part.

The weekend looms before me: a 32 mile run I have probably not properly prepared for. I am supporting a good friend in his attempt to run 100 miles. I will be joining him around mid-night on Saturday to keep him company through the darkness. I hope he’s not going to end up being the one supporting me.

My own dreams of running long distances are clouded. I am unsure of my commitment to a training regimen and unclear as to why I would want to take on another running goal or what that goal might be. I recently listened to an episode of The Rich Roll Podcast featuring Tim Van Orten. Tim says we shouldn’t focus too much on “training” when it comes to running, or anything else in life. He believes the concept of training makes running feel like an ordeal we put ourselves through, a form of self-abuse. Instead he suggests that running should just become an integrated part of our life, giving us no reason to even feel the need to define ourselves as runners.

Tim goes on to say that running should bring joy to our life and if in pursuing that joy we accomplish some new distance or speed, that’s just something extra. Winning races (not something I’m in any danger of doing) and completing a hundred miler might feel good in the moments after they have been completed, but they don’t change who we are as the elation of the accomplishment soon passes. There has to be other reasons to wake up in the morning and lace up the running shoes. This is the place that I currently occupy, wondering for what reasons I run.

I want to find the joy again. I want running to be a part of me, not just something I do so that I can place another brick in my ego. I want to push my body, to test it, but to do it no lasting harm. This seems to be a delicate balance. What are these aches and pains trying to tell me? Merely that I am alive, or that I doing damage that cannot easily be repaired. I need to listen more closely to those voices, to heed their warnings while ignoring their complaints, to find the joy in the suffering, as well as the joy of the movement. I need to figure out why I run again.