Why do we run?

My long run this week was a return to something I didn’t know I missed: Trail Running. Setting out for 13 or so carefree trail miles was fantastic. As soon as I got onto the trail, I could feel the sense of freedom of not being surrounded by cars, or bothering about pace. Just 13 carefree trail miles. In a way it reminded me of what I always liked about running, which is not thinking or focusing on anything, just running through the countryside, taking it all in, letting nature distract me. This made me think that sometimes we possibly lose track of why we run, or more importantly what it is precisely about running that we like. Lets be honest, running can hurt, we sometimes have to get up super-early to do it, and often go out in weather that others consider crazy. Its no wonder that more people don’t give it up.


Running clubs up and down the country will have heard the question a million times over and runners spill out of the club into the cold, wet night… “why are we doing this”? Is it because of the targets we set ourselves? I must run a sub-4 marathon, for example. Not really, as all time based targets are kind of arbitrary, and after we complete one target another one comes immediately afterwards, almost like hitting the first target was not good enough. No, this is not the reason why we run, this is just a carrot we dangle in front of ourselves. What about for health reasons, like to loose weight? Well there are easier ways, and most involve dieting and exercise of some form, with the latter only partially helping. However this seems like only a transitory reason and not one to keep us running week after week on dark, cold and wet nights. There are gyms for this surely?


Perhaps its true that the reasons why we run can change from time to time also. One week we might run to escape stress at home or at work, by freeing ourselves for the hour or so and emptying the mind. Other times we might run for companionship, or as part of a training program to get us to another carrot. Inspiration is another good reason to run, but not what you are thinking. Inspiring yourself. Each run will inspire you in some way and how often have you heard the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as a bad run’. The first person you have to inspire every day is yourself and running will do that. We're all terrible at something in life, so why not make up for it with a strenuous, completely unrelated activity? When you're nothing but a slob at the desk, you can instantly turn yourself around with a quick run. I've never been so low that a run wouldn't snap me out of it. There are no hiding places. Every run makes you fantastic. Once you stop, you're on your own, so it's a better bet to just keep it going. Why not take it a step further and attempt to inspire others not just ourselves? Running is not a private activity. People are watching. Show someone what it's like to want something. Lace up and give them something to believe in.


So the truth about why each runner takes up and continues to run is that its probably for their own very personal reasons, but underpinning these will be a sense of joy…running must bring us joy. If it did not, then we simply wouldn’t do it. Joy found through running fast, or slow, on roads or trails. Joy found from escapism or from companionship; its largely irrelevant, the joy that running brings is why we do it.

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