Running is hard, takes effort, and most people find it boring. Yet, there is something innate in it that makes it an integral part of life for many. I got thinking about some of the runs I have been on in the last two years. Most were just short runs around the park – 5 to 7K, some were a bit longer 10 to 12K, some were runs I sneaked in while traveling for work or on holiday – a trick I learnt from some senior colleagues: don’t take your laptop but take your running shoes. There was nothing exceptional about any of those runs, and yet they stuck in my memory.
Going for a walk gives me peace, space for thought, time for reflection. Going for a run is different – often full of conflicts – I feel like a child, frustrated at how slow I am, pleased at how fast I am, out of breath, full of confidence, plagued with doubt, a human being full of potential.
This year, for the first time, I ran the distance of a half-marathon – 21K. It wasn’t for a race or a charity or any purpose at all. I just woke up one morning and decided I wanted to see if I could do it. I chose a special trail for this run – all along the sea in Eastbourne in South England. I was very slow, taking over two hours, but when I finished, tired beyond belief, I felt a deep sense of contentment. How could I feel that way despite being in such pain?
A colleague recently stated his disappointment at having run only around 700 K this year, a far cry from his 1000+ last year. My weekly 10K runs around the hood and even my shining single half marathon paled in comparison. But that didn’t matter for we didn’t dwell on distances or ‘personal best times’, instead we talked about our love of being outdoors.
I have shared similar conversations with ultra runners, marathon addicts and casual runners like me. Their motivations to finish their runs once they get started are different. Some listen to podcasts, some listen to music, and some don’t listen to anything at all. The only thing we have in common, is the act of getting out of the door and putting one foot in front of the other.
But why does one think about going for a run in the first place? Fitness, challenge, change, running may facilitate all those things. I think running gives something more, an escape, a detachment and yet a connection with the world and with oneself. You go somewhere, you go back, sometimes the same, sometimes anew. The parallels with life are many.