Last Thursday I published a piece on my relationship with running. Specifically, I was trying to explore why running plays any role in my life, given that it’s an activity I generally don’t enjoy.
Rather than write about my main concern: i.e. that my ego might be the driving force in my decision to run or not, I chose to focus on the technicalities, referencing an article that reports why long, slow jogging is not an activity that will deliver the type of physical results I’m after.
In other words I wrote a post which gave me the perfect EXCUSE as to why I shouldn’t include running in my regime. How convenient. For my ego, that is.
Even though my content missed the mark, the interactive dialogue that it spurred, fueled by reader comments, honed right in on what really matters to me. i.e. Why I do it if it’s neither enjoyable nor effective?
Your comments made me think. They made me want to delve even deeper. So much so that I spent much of this past weekend talking Mr. Enthusiasm’s ear off about it. He was very excited about that, as you can imagine.
He doesn’t run, and has no plans to start. Moreover, he sees no path to self-actualization through running. He doesn’t view it as something that would ever be a source of pride. In short, he doesn’t give a flying fuck about running.
That, my friends, pretty much kills my hypothesis that a large percentage of people run just so they can brag that they are runners.
Uh oh, What if it’s just me who does that?
But if it’s just me then why are there so many others out there who seem to hate running but do it anyway?
One of my favourite comments came from Martha, who, in response to my suggestion that this phenomenon is limited to running, said, “I am imagining someone full of Zumba hate showing up for class and rage dancing.” Seriously, how great would that be?? But would it happen? Probably not. Running, though… all the time.
Okay, so clearly some people love to run. And why wouldn’t they? According to an article I read on Medicinenet.com, the benefits of running, at any speed, are many. It’s a great article, if you want to learn a lot about the what and why of running, you should click on over.
One of the coolest side effects that some runners experience is the “runner’s high”. This article says:
There’s a bug about running that you catch. It could be the exhilaration of propelling your body through space, or the pounding on the ground that sends sensation up your bones all the way to the pleasure centers in your brain, or it could simply be the sheer satisfaction of having done something good for yourself. Whatever it is, running can be addictive.
I have never been addicted to running. Nor have I ever felt that running has touched the pleasure centers in my brain.
I don’t always hate it. Sometimes I actually enjoy it. But the only running I enjoy is done in short, fast spurts. The only thing extended runs make me feel is nauseas and tired. And often like a failure.
I know people who enjoy running. People who are truly addicted to the high they get from it.
And I also know that there are a shit ton of people who absolutely hate it. Yet they do it anyway.
Case in point, the day after my epic Grand Canyon hike, we took the long, long, long way home in order to enjoy the gorgeous vistas of Southern Utah. As we made our way between Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon, we passed a relay race, the Top of Zion.
The event is a 2-day 195 mile relay run by teams of 12. They race all night, typically finishing in 36 hours. Given the altitude, the steep inclines along the route and the scorching sun on May 30th, this race would have been a crazy challenge for runners of ALL levels.
I rolled my window down so I could shout words of encouragement as we drove past the runners. I’m nerdy like that.
It was then that I noticed the difference between what I’ll call *real runners” and “wannabe runners”.
The real runners looked like they were working hard, but they didn’t look like they were in pain. Or dying. Not even a little bit.
The wannabes fell into two categories: poseurs and haters.
The poseurs looked the part. They wore all the right gear, but walked, painful grimaces on their faces, when no one was around to see. They busted into a jog and donned a mask to cover the not-so-happy looks the moment our truck came into view.
The haters wore their misery all over their faces. They were not having fun. They were in pain, and they were not afraid to let us see. They walked as our car approached, and for the most part they just kept on walking. They didn’t even try to fool us.
So charity aside, what else would compel someone who is clearly not capable of running this race to sign up for it? Ego? Bragging rights? Help me here, because I genuinely struggle with the why.
In an effort to gain some clarity, I set out on Friday, with reader comments still dancing in my head, for a power walk along the lake.
I started out by asking myself, why did you start running in the first place? To answer that question I had to take the time machine back to January 2013 and the start of My Year of Sweat journey.
But once I got good at running in short spurts, or sprints, if you will, I wanted to see how much more actual ‘running’ I could do.
I set a goal for myself. I wanted to run for 20 minutes without stopping. I accomplished that goal on April 5, 2013. Colour me shocked when I followed that achievement with a 30 minute run the very next day, thereby setting and achieving my next running goal in the span of 24 hours.
And then I stopped running. For months.
By late fall I noticed that several friends were running in 5k races. So I decided I would do one too. Why? Ego, probably. I wanted to prove that I could. And so I ran my first 5k event in November 2013 and achieved a personal best in the process.
And then I stopped running. For months.
Never once did it occur to me that the reason I was so quick to dump running from my repertoire is because I didn’t actually enjoy it.
That bit of introspection would have served me well several months ago when I decided to run a 10k. Not because it was a burning desire of mine, but because I was just keeping up with the Joneses.
It was during my training for the 10k race that I realized three things:
- I don’t like distance running; and
- the farther I go, the slower I get; so maybe…
- my body is just not built for running long distances
I never completed a full 10k; the farthest I got were a handful of 7-8 km training sessions. But those provided me with a good sense of my pace. Based on that info, I set my goal for the 10k at 01:15:00.
Then, just for shits and giggles, I decided to time myself doing an all-walk 10k.
My default walk speed is quite fast, but this time I really put some extra effort into it.
I finished that 10k walk in 01:26:15.
It hardly seemed worth the effort, not to mention the beating my lungs and knees would take, just to shave 11 minutes off my time by running one.
I decided to shelve the pursuit of a 10k goal.
Back to present day.
As I power walked my way alongside the lakefront, I noticed a heavyset woman jogging approximately 750 meters ahead of me. She appeared to be going very slowly. The only reason I refer to it as jogging is because of her gait. I could see a slight bounce in her step.
Within a few minutes I had closed the gap between us, and then passed her. It was only then that I realized just how slowly she was moving.
I continued along my route, and eventually turned back, lapping her in the process.
Thoughts of this woman kept flashing into my consciousness throughout my walk, and long after. A look of defeat on her face as she saw me walk past her while she jogged.
Later, I told Mr. Enthusiasm about her. I ranted on and on about how many other forms of exercise would be more beneficial to her both physically and mentally. I nattered on, fixated on why on earth she would choose running.
Finally he stopped me. Nancy, why do you care???
And I had an epiphany.
He was right. Why do I care? I shouldn’t.
Is running her best choice? I have an opinion on that. But my opinion doesn’t matter.
Rather than concern myself with what motivates others to run, I need to focus on one thing only. Is running right for me?
For now, I’ve decided that I’ll run as a warm up before my 3x/week heavy lifting program at the gym. It will take the form of treadmill interval running, or wind sprints, as some people call them.
That said, I’m not limiting myself. Just today I went out for a power walk, but decided to throw in a series of short sprints just for fun. And it felt good. No, really.
Running under my terms is the right choice for me right now. Even though my running doesn’t make me a *real* runner, by my own definition. 🙂