Friday, May 6, 2011

For the Love of Running - Part 1

Some people HATE to run.  Some people LOVE to run.  Some run to get in shape, stay in shape or to achieve a goal they think may be rewarding.  Because I am writing this, and because I LOVE to run, I will explain why it is that I love to run. 

For those who have read my experience of running a 100 mile trail race last July, you should have a pretty good idea of why it is I love to run.  It connects me to my youth; the happy times.  I can feel myself as a 10 year old running through the woods of Sharon, Massachusetts or around the lake or through the golf course near my childhood home.  Though my body and experience have changed over the years, it’s the same eyes, the same mind, the same lungs and the same feeling of becoming one with the world.  It was then, and continues today, an escape from the daily rigors that life brings; it’s my “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” 

It begs the question; why is running so fulfilling for some, and such utter drudgery for others?  The answer is complicated, yet compelling.  Those who love running almost universally find that it helps them clear their minds.  It’s an escape from the stress of life and a way to help keep a healthy frame of mind, or mind state.  It’s why there have been amazing success stories of people who have been able to go from inner or external turmoil (cancer survivor, overcame obesity, drugs or crime) to marathoner.  It all begins with the mind state.  To love running, you have to WANT to run.  It’s not enough to want to run to lose weight or get in some exercise.  You can choose any activity to accomplish that.  Think about the things in life that are truly important to you, and to what means you would go to get whatever it is that’s important.  If it’s something you really want, then you will have the right mind state to get it.  If you just want to exercise, then that doesn’t mean you necessarily want to run, so there is no real underlying desire to run. 

If you’ve figured out that you truly want to run, then you have to understand the proper mind state of the runner.  We don’t think of it as boring.  It’s not.  It’s fulfilling in every way imaginable, and that is why we love it.  Is it fulfilling to go to the gym and hop on a treadmill?  I can’t think of any runner I’ve met over the years who loves running and loves running on a treadmill.  We are not hamsters and we are not programmed to run in place.  Running is supposed to connect us with our childhoods, our past experiences, even our ancestry.  We are a hunter gatherer species, and, if you’ve read Born to Run, persistence hunters in particular.  We evolved in large part, due to our ability to run long distances!  We all have the same ancestry, and therefore, we all have that cultural legacy inside of us.  I scoff when people say that we weren’t meant to be upright or run.  We wouldn’t BE if it weren’t for our ability to run.  It’s in our nature, and it’s what those that truly love to run are tapping into.  So why fight it?  It is obvious to all that treadmills are not the natural place where running was meant to be.  Treadmills, typically in basements and gyms, are a way to exercise at a time and place of your choosing that occurs in a very controlled environment.  That last phrase is key: controlled environment.  That is NOT nature and that is not natural to humans.  The Earth has texture and the air has a spirit that you should feel.  The Earth provides natural challenges and obstacles that need to be felt, experienced, and overcome if necessary.  The treadmill is like a prison.  The roads are an improvement over the treadmill, but asphalt and concrete aren’t embedded into our past.  You can love running and never set foot on dirt, but I would find it hard to imagine that those who are honest with themselves would opt for Main Street over a nice open space in the hills somewhere.

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to love it!

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