Why do you run?

I’ve been lucky enough to interview some extraordinary runners over the years. People like Dean Karnazes, Diane van Deren, Lisa Tamati and, my personal hero, US ultra-runner Marshall Ulrich.

All these guys have achieved extraordinary feats over distances that most of us would only ever do in an aeroplane.

One of the things I always ask is why they do it? Why they run? What is it that makes them put their bodies through such brutal torture and then keep coming back for more?

The odd thing, however, is they never seem to articulate a convincing answer.

Sure, they’ll talk about “the challenge” and “testing” themselves. Some of them might say they want to find out what they are made of and push themselves to the limit but none of it is very convincing.

Perhaps the best reply I ever got was simply that unless you are a runner you can’t possibly understand why people run. This is a bit like Mallory’s famous “Because it’s there” response in that it manages to say everything and not very much both at the same time. It’s also pretty much on the money. Not everything needs to be articulated. Some things just need to be felt at a visceral level.

But despite that (and maybe because I think too much) I thought I’d try and figure out my own reasons for running.
There are, of course, all the usual points about keeping weight off (and enjoying a guilt-free beer or two), keeping my heart strong, keeping my bones healthy ... But you can get all that from, say, swimming or an elliptical trainer. However, I choose to run, so there has to be more to it than that.

So, here are some of the reasons I run:
1. It’s simple. There’s no complicated equipment required save a pair of shoes and maybe a water bottle. You can run wherever in the world you happen to be - just head out the door.

2. Because I can. The time will come one day when knees, hips or general decrepitude will stop me running. But until then I’ll keep on clocking up the Ks.

3. It gives me time to think. Running allows your mind to wander without being interrupted. Some of the best ideas I’ve had have been while on the hoof.

4. Because I get out into nature. Much of my running I do in a national park, surrounded by flora and fauna. Just being outside is an end in itself.

5. I like runners. Generally speaking, they are nice people to hang around with. They have a positive outlook and tend not to whinge too much.

6. I like myself better when I run.

7. It makes me feel like a kid again. Remember when you used to run everywhere just for the sheer joy of it? There was never any reason to stop just because you “grew up”.

8. Discipline. It’s old-fashioned, I know, but we need some discipline and routine in our lives.

9. Because it’s fun, especially on those rare days when the world seems to spin under your feet and everything is effortless.

10. Because those diamond days come around only occasionally and often it’s bloody hard work. The ability to suffer and suck up pain is much underrated in our comfortable modern world.

Those are my reasons – this week at least. Why do you run?

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