Last June, I posted a piece entitled Why We Run! I rewrote it for the purpose of posting on the Run Vermont website, but it was deemed too much like the original post. But I prefer the rewrite though it includes some of the same thoughts and basic organization.
So here’s the rewrite, which I’ve entitled Preparing to Run.
Preparing to run a marathon is a BIG commitment. If we do it right, it takes time, focus, energy, and understanding from those around us. However, training for a marathon, or any race really, might give us pause to consider why we run, period. Over the years, various reasons have regularly surfaced for me. You may have encountered these too:
- We Choose to Participate
- We Challenge Ourselves
- We Make Friends
- Good Health
- Reasons Beyond Ourselves
Running is a choice we make. But we’re not alone! Running USA’s 2015 survey indicated there were 17 million road race finishers (not unique racers – one can count multiple times) up from just 4.7 million in 1990 – nearly a four-fold increase! Interestingly, 57% were women, up from 25% in 1990.
Why this overall increase? Four key reasons are technologies that allow for net times and quick results provided by professional timing companies, greater participation by women, a proliferation of local races, and social media. Younger runners are again coming into the mix, perhaps driven by social media. And sponsorships have allowed for widespread promotion and means to have more happening than just the race. Races are now events, and by and large they are more fun!
I suggest many runners self-select the sport because they like the challenge. Running at all levels starts from where we are. There is really no other place to be! Jon Waldron, who coaches VCM winner Tyler Andrews, suggests training is an incremental process that can and should be viewed in weeks, months, or even years. Jon notes the importance of setting realistic goals for each of these timelines, meeting or missing them, and then recalibrating.
We all hit physical, mental and social challenges in the course of any training cycle. All are relevant and necessary to address. Physical challenges can be temporary – an injury or illness – whereas some, e.g., a hip replacement, are permanent. Others, such as excess or insufficient weight or sleep apnea can prove persistent. Mental challenges include taking time to plan and stick to a training plan and be willing to put the hammer down, while at the same time being smart enough to listen to our bodies. Work, family, and volunteer commitments are important social constraints that must be appropriately handled.
The overall challenge is to find an acceptable balance among all these competing demands for our time and energy. No simple task! But that’s the lot of a runner, and one we choose.
While some of us do much of our training solo, perhaps for scheduling reasons, most prefer company. The run seems easier and it’s a time to share what’s going on in our lives. It’s amazing what we learn about our fellow runners on a long run!
Some common reasons for running together include:
- Accountability – when you tell someone you’ll meet them at 6 a.m., you’re likely to get up and be there!
- Motivation – to go long or keep a pace.
- Learning – about affairs of the world, what has worked for someone else’s running, or just about anything really.
- Safety in numbers and for emergencies.
The health benefits of running abound. As long as we don’t overdo it! Running builds bone mineral density, reduces resting heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
Running can also boost mood and prepare us for a productive day. What’s not to like about that! The caveat, of course, is to pay close attention to the first signs of injury. This can be point specific or just general tiredness, setting us up for something larger. It helps to do more than just run and to find complementary aerobic, flexibility, and strength-training exercises to balance the stress we place on joints, tendons, and muscles used for running.
REASONS BEYOND OURSELVES
We may run for all of the above reasons, well enough. However, if we look at who organizes races many are nonprofits, including Run Vermont, and community groups. Fundraising is now part of most races. Twenty percent of Boston Marathon entrants are charity runners. Race beneficiaries may be medical research, the local elementary school, your local NPR station, or a public park. Cancer runs often have “in memory of” bibs.
Another reason for racing, which I submit is also beyond ourselves, is being part of a celebration of sport. There’s a buzz, an energy, we both feel good about being in and contributing to. Imagine the Vermont City Marathon with just 100 runners dodging cars and no spectators. A race is a happening, possible due to organizers, sponsors, volunteers, spectators, and of course runners. We’re part of it, but we ourselves are not it.
So as you prepare for your run this Memorial Day, maybe you’ll come up with your own list of reasons. But maybe the true reason we run is pretty basic: WE ENJOY IT!