Philosophy of running (8 of 8)
At a sports psychology lecture we (60 sports students) were asked why we did our chosen sport.
Footballers listed reasons like team spirit and bonding; racket sports people liked the deft skills, hand-eye co-ordination and power mix; water sports people liked the feel of the water etc.
The point is that all had an immediate response. Except me. The long distance runner!
Why? Well I had to think about it. I had to wonder why I had run (off and on) since primary school.
Although I'd competed and enjoyed a number of sports, it was always running that I returned to. I couldn't immediately tell the lecturer that I loved it. Definitely not. But it kept coming back to haunt me - like a recurring illness. It was "in my blood" so to speak, although none of my extended family ever did it.
As I get older I understand why I always come back. Running is a deeply personal hobby. There are myriad reasons why people do it. The health related benefits are obvious. Less easily defineable are the psychological benefits.
When I race - there's nowhere to hide. Try as I might I can offer no good excuses for poor performances. OK we're all entitled to a bad race or two, but if we haven't done the work, we are inevitably found out.
When I take to the canal paths at a quiet time of day my mind does one or other of two things:
1 - Switches off. Completely and utterly. Sometimes I go for a 90 minute run and think of...NOTHING. My mind is in total limbo. This is very restful.
2 - Goes into super problem solving organising mode. After a hectic day, when the mind is racing and working over-time, a steady run is great for putting things into perspective and ordering your day and the days ahead.
Running asks questions of us. Every time I go out to run I am being tested. My will power is being tested, my determination, perseverance, my very soul is being searched.
I have to keep going - to see it through no matter what. If "it" is a 3mile slow jog, or a 12 mile hard run, or a 26 mile marathon I must see it through. Otherwise I am a coward, a failure. These are the conditions placed upon me when I run. I prove myself to myself each time.
We are often told that the run you least feel like doing is the most important one. We've all been there - groaning at the very thought of it.
The body and mind feel sluggish, even exhausted. But, we drag ourselves out and run. After the run I reflect: "was that me an hour ago?" I feel so energised physically and mentally now - like a new person.
Couple this with the sense of achievement that comes with every run completed - the euphoria that comes after a big race, and it becomes easier to see why running is so addictive.
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