Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Why Do You Run?"

A ferocious yawp from the Rehoboth Marathon, turned into a sublime, hilarious, perhaps fitting rendering by Joel Shilliday.

It's a fair question, particularly if it comes up that you run long distances at obscene hours of the morning, even in cold weather. Why? It was posed most recently at work, when I didn't have a chance to answer. So here's a shot:

I run to avoid a mid-life crisis. I run for perspective that only comes on the other side, or inside a space created by several miles, a floating stride (when it does) and distance from daily responsibilities. I run for both a sense of peace and turmoil created by self-inflicted pain that is earned and somehow cleansing.

I run because we are what we do with our lives and how we act and I choose not to be someone who sits on their ass in front of a screen all the time in a flatscreen reality. I run to connect places on foot, in sight, smells, sounds, and experience that deepens my connection to the world when I next drive by that same spot.

I run to experience life on my own terms, if only for a little while at the beginning of a day. I run early in the morning because I have to if I want to run and because I like how it distinguishes me from those sleeping in, and shows me a part of a town, a road, a trail, the landscape, that I'd have never seen otherwise. I run early for sunrises at Tuckahoe, or to see what the sun sees as it just begins to peak over the horizon.

I run for stories. I run for camaraderie and shared experiences. I run because you know someone differently after you've run 10 or 20 miles with them than you could ever have known them otherwise. I run to be different and at the same time to have a shared bond with those who run.

I run because there are some things that I use (and other people use) to define myself and I enjoy the label of being a runner, with whatever that means. I run, at times, to cross a finish line and know that I have accomplished something through will, effort, fun, lows and highs, that is one of those things that can't be handed to you.

I run to be outside. To feel or crunch the snow. To catch sight of a heron, fox, deer, turtle, eagle, in their element. I run trails because it feels like where I should be. I run because I get something from it that feels both equal to and bigger than what I put into it.

I run because at some point, when we look at the sum (or product) of our life experience--family, relationships, love known or unknown, education, jobs, accomplishments, travel, books read, photos taken, beers/coffee drunk--running helps inform all these things and is something I want in mine.

Why do you run?