Running, one might say, is basically an absurd past-time upon which to be exhausting ourselves. But if you can find meaning, in the kind of running you have to do... ...chances are you will be able to find meaning in another absurd past-time: Life.
- Bill Bowerman - Without Limits (1998)
A steady rain was falling through the now mostly bare trees. The musty smell of decaying leaves swirled around me as strong gusts of wind cut through the forests at Pineland Farms. Every step of mine was greeted by the soggy crunch of leaf and acorn-covered trails. Except for the occasional squirrel or chipmunk, I was alone. And that haunting question came into my mind… Why?
Why was I out there? Why was I running through the cold rain and 40mph gusts of wind? Why wasn’t I curled up on the couch with a hot cup of cider, reading a book, and listening to the wind and rain outside? Why didn’t I just stop running?
I spent a lot of time running alone in the woods this past summer while training for my first ultramarathon. No running partner. No headphones. Just me, my thoughts, and the hundreds of flies buzzing around my head. I had struggled to run consistently over the past year, and I knew I had to confront any doubts I had.
On one of my long runs, I thought a lot about the negative things that people had said to me about my running in the past that I had never let go of. And while it pulled me through that run, I felt more mentally and emotionally drained than usual afterwards. I knew that I had to let go of those feelings of resentment. I couldn’t spend an entire race thinking about all the things that had torn me down so many times before.
Why? It’s a question that will eventually creep into the mind of any runner if you run long enough. And it’s a question that nobody else can answer for you. Your answer is your own.
What is it that pulls you out the door on a rainy morning? What keeps you going in the middle of a long run on a hot summer day?
I decided that I was going to run because it was actually something that I enjoyed doing. I wasn’t going to run for the ghosts of the past, but instead because I liked to run and couldn’t help myself. I wanted to run towards who I wanted to become instead of away from the past and who I used to be.
Whatever your reason for running is, we’re all on this journey together. And while our “why’s” may be a little different, the sport of running has a unique way of bringing people together. And sometimes, that’s all the “why” you really need.