Why I run

Every Monday, I share what’s on my mind. In the midst of the pandemic, I’ve come to realize that one of the things that truly bring me joy — writing — is missing from the equation. This is my attempt to rectify that.

To get this newsletter delivered to your email inbox weekly, subscribe here.

I have no hard data on this, but I suspect that the majority of the world hates running.

It’s rare for someone to profess to enjoy running as their Preferred Physical Activity. Placing one foot in front of the other an indeterminable number of times, in order to reach an arbitrary finish line that doesn’t really exist, is a silly-sounding premise.

Many dabble in running, but few are willing to commit. The folks who run on treadmills in suitably air-conditioned gyms look like they’d rather be doing anything else. They’re watching their iPads or taking phone calls.

I don’t blame them. For most, let’s face it, running is a means to an end. Jogging on the treadmill for ten minutes is warming up for a lifting session, or cooling down after some high-intensity interval training.

It’s a tool to get you somewhere else, whether that’s weight loss, strength gains, or “I feel bad after eating this bag of chips, let’s burn some calories and feel better about myself.”

I’ve heard running being described as Boring with a capital B. There’s nothing going on. There’s no mastering tricks with a skateboard, or visually appealing progression.

If you get “good” at running, it generally means you can run longer and faster. That’s it. Congratulations.

It’s easier to “get” hobbies like cycling, snorkeling, swimming, or sky-diving. They sound far more exotic, typically involve the acquisition of expensive gear (can’t deny that’s fun), and are objectively less strenuous on the joints.

Running is a young person’s game. One’s knees wear out, especially when running long distances for extended periods of time.

You have to be genetic advantaged, straight up lucky, or some combination of the two, to enjoy running in your later years.

It’s not up to me to convince anyone why running might be “fun” or “interesting,” but I’d like to explain my mindset as I train towards my first marathon.

First of all, I need to get something off my chest: I absolutely detest socializing as part of physical activity.

Exercising is a way for me to feel at one with my physical state of being. It’s a conversation I have with my body and no one else.

I believe that exercise is a deeply personal thing. I do it to stay healthy and feel good.

Running is the perfect activity because it is inherently solitary. On the open road, it’s just me, my headphones, my breathing, and my thoughts. There’s a simplicity there that I find hard to beat.

I don’t want to combine socialization with exercise. Following trends, or social pressures, is for the weak.

That’s probably why I don’t have a lot of friends.

Don’t get me wrong. I have social anxiety, and I’ll talk to someone I’m around just to make small talk and fill the silence. When I’m lifting, I talk to my trainer between sets.

I will entertain opportunities to run with a partner, or to train together for races.

I’ve done all of those things in the past. I’m not a sociopath.

But when it’s time to run…it’s time to run. Let’s get down to business.

I run because you don’t have to be particularly athletic to run.

I weighed 200 pounds in high school and always finished dead last in gym class. I am flat footed. I’m blessed with a lot of natural gifts, but elite athleticism was not one of them.

After coming back from a long period of running inactivity, I started with 3 km runs in March and am now able to run 20-25 km per session with minimal issues.

All I did was (1) become mentally focused on running longer distances; (2) work on ways to do it; and (3) run-run-run.

There is no magic formula, I am not an athlete. I am never going to be fast, or mistaken for a professional runner.

I’m on my way to running a marathon this year. While I can’t guarantee that I will get there — need to stay injury-free, knock on wood — my basic level of fitness is much better now vs. six months ago.

If flat-footed non-athletic James can do it, then anyone can do it.

And this brings me to the final “why.” Running fits me because there’s no bullshit.

It’s just me and the road. It’s a literal goal and easy to set up / visualize. What’s in the middle is a bunch of weak excuses.

When I leave the house and tell myself that I’m going to run 25 km today, two things will happen:

  1. I will accomplish this task.
  2. I will not accomplish this task.

There is no middle ground.

I’ll beat myself up if I don’t achieve the goal, but I understand that lots of things can happen: injury, pulled muscles, extreme heat, life interruptions requiring me to get home early, and so forth.

Things happen, but at the end of the day, they are excuses for why I didn’t get the job done.

I have experienced running-related injuries for extended periods of time, as described in pain-staking detail here.

I’m grateful to be able to run, period. So I try not to push myself too far.

But if I tell myself I’m running today, then I’ve done my homework to make that determination:

  1. I feel good, mentally and physically, in that order.
  2. I have checked the weather and road conditions, and it is looking doable — no signs of extreme heat, rain, or snow.
  3. I have stretched and warmed up my body, and given myself the best shot at completing my goal.
  4. (Most importantly!) I have visualized the completion of my goal. Visualization of all outcomes — including failure — is important. This is an entire article in itself.

Running to me is a microcosm of life.

In life, there are your goals, and then there are the excuses you create for yourself.

Are you going to continue to give yourself “outs” to not achieve your goals, or are you going to suck it up and get to that 25 km mark?

It’s your life. Live it the way you need to.

Whatever “it” is. Go get it, friends. Take care of yourself and be excellent.

That’s a wrap! See you next week.

To get this newsletter delivered to your email inbox weekly, subscribe here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: