Friday, September 28, 2007

Why do they run?

Why do they abuse themselves? Do they enjoy pain? Do they feel like they have accomplished something meaningful? In the wake of Bangalore organizing its first Ultra Marathon in 3 months time, I had these questions troubling me in my mind. What is it about running that people throng in hordes to participate?
I tried my bit to find my answers by rummaging through sites, blogs and accounts that runners would have documented their beliefs and may have explained their spirit behind running.And boy!, did I succeed in my pursuit.

What I could surmise out of all the reading was that, other than the obvious health benefits, it was the uplifting experience and the sheer joy of running that brings runners together. Running provides a range of emotions from fatigue and pain as you struggle up the trail, to the awe and inspiration that you can take from the views around you, which otherwise you don’t appreciate in your day to day life. The feeling of oneness that grows in you as you run a marathon. A sense of belongingness and a sense of universality with the community of runners. The love of being able to run a marathon is the reason behind it.

All said and done, I don’t think anything else will inspire you more than this. I bumped into Kristin Armstrong’s blog at and I must say, her post epitomises the spirit behind running. Do read…

August 12, 2007
Spot on, Bertha
I keep getting asked about my Fall marathon like I must have a Fall marathon. It's a valid question though, if one wonders why someone would run 1.5-2 plus hour runs on weekends without a plan or goal in mind. I wonder the same thing myself sometimes, when my alarm clock goes off at 5 am on a Saturday and I grab Gatorade, snacks and dollar bills on my way out the door, keys in my teeth, pulling my cap down low, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, and hopping on one leg to get my shoe on. Or when I pop an ibuprofen in the afternoon, achey and tired after my morning exploits in the oppresive heat.

"Why?" one might ask. "What's the point?"

I didn't exactly know how to articulate the answer, even though articulating things is my specialty (I hope my editor isn't reading this). I know I always feel better after my run, even if I'm depleted in my body - my soul is full. I know I need that time with my friends. But as far as a goal...? A method to my madness and my miles...? Hmmmm.

One morning this week I read a devotional before my run and had one of those "Ahhhh-HA!" moments where I can picture the cartoon lightbulb in a bubble over my head. The devotional theme was a reflection on the importance of preparedness.

It began by saying, "Bless me and make me a blessing." Then it went on to explain that the biggest way we can help those we love is by having already helped ourselves. This means we are supposed to deal with our own stuff, tidy up our own lives and our own hearts. We are supposed to work at our fitness (I of course use this word, the author didn't) in all capacities (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical), and not simply because it is an end in itself, but because we are in a constant state of being made ready. If we are fit, in every sense of that word, then when someone we love needs us, we can make a difference for them. In that way, and in many others, every hill is a metaphor...we trudge up it knowing that we may be called upon to carry someone else up it the next time. In this manner and for this reason, we work hard to be stronger, fitter, faster, more agile. Fitness has a purpose far beyond vanity, beyond even good health, when a person is trained to think of it in these terms.

The author of this particular devotional is a woman named Bertha Munro. She had one line in there that buckled my knees; a line that summed up everything about fitness to me. Here it is: "You cannot always do something to help your friends, but you can always be something to help them..."

Okay, that's it. That's why I train, right there. Thanks, Bertha. I don't train because I want to be able to do things (run a faster 5K, beat my marathon PR, make someone eat my dust on a trail...though those things aren't bad....). I train because I want to be someone better than I would be if I didn't train. If someone I love is faltering, I want to be the kind of woman who can haul some ***; I want to be first on the scene. I want to be strong enough to carry some of his/her burden along with my own. I want to have a clear head and a clear heart, so if I am asked for advice I can offer wisdom instead of mere opinion. If my big opportunity arises to serve, I want to be ready. If it takes more out of me than I anticipated, I want to know something about endurance. If the terrain suddenly changes, I want to be steady. If someone I love looks at me with eyes full of fear, terrified that they won't be able to finish whatever happens to lie ahead of them, I want to look at them, wordless, with unblinking eyes that assure them that there is no way that they won't.

That, right there, is why I run. In case you were wondering.

Why do you run?

If this didn’t motivate you, nothing else will. Though it was just for fun that I registered myself for the Bangalore Ultra Marathon, now I can sense the purpose growing in me. I do drag myself up every morning for my training sessions. But I am sure, I am going to have an extra spring in my gait when I wake up for practice from tomorrow. I am finally glad that I found my answers to the question, "Why do they run? ".

Some more shots of motivation :

"Running is the classical road to self-consciousness, self-awareness and self-reliance."

-- Noel Carroll (1981)


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