Non runners often ask runners this question with a puzzled look on their faces. Shelley asked me the other week what my plans were for the weekend, and I told her Lauren and I were having a quiet weekend in but I hoped to run twice and go for a 30 mile cycle sometime as well. She has come to expect these silly answers from me so just sighed and said we live very different lives!
It just got me thinking why did I take up running nearly two years ago and why I am still running strong now? There are millions of runners worldwide and each runner has their own reasons for getting out there. I was on a run in the sun today and it was just beautiful, and it gave me time to come up with my list of 10 reasons why people run and more particuarly why I run. The list is in my order of importance:
1) The Challenge - I love challenges, particuarly physical challenges. Running gives me this outlet. One big challenge I have achieved was completing the Marathon, but I have other targets such as LEJOG on the bike, running Comrades and completing an Ironman.
2) For PB's & Finding My Limits - This was a close second. One of the things I love about running is the old cliche about running being fair, what you put in you get out. It also appeals to the number crunching Accountant and stat lover in me. It is so quantifiable and comparable. I enjoyed playing football, and there are elements of being part of a team that I do miss as a runner. But what I love about running is it's just down to you, you can't have a stinker and let somebody else pull you through. Football is also subjective, and sometimes you would come off very pleased with your efforts, but someone else watching might say you had a shocker. In running once you've set your time that's set in stone and aside from the difficulty of the course or the favourable conditions there's not alot of argument. I'm also intrigued to see where my limits are, how far can I push my PB's, this is a physical test, but also over the longer distances such as the Marathon or Comrades it's very much a mental test of character.
3) For Fitness & Self Esteem - I'm a guy and so as a big broad generalisation I am driven by ego. I think this probably applies to me quite strongly. I enjoy being fit and healthy and it boosts my self esteem and I'm more confident when I am in good physical shape.
4) Competition - I love competition. To some it's a hugely unplesant personality trait, but for me it's a trait I would love to inject into every newborn child. I'm not competitive about everything, but when I find something I'm motivated by my competitive instincts kick in. Some might look at my times and say, but you're not very quick why are you being competitive? You don't need to be at the front of the race to want to compete, I am getting faster and still have plenty more improvement in me. But from my very first race, I wanted to beat as many people as I could, and as the finish line approached I was looking to outsprint those around me. In running the battle is firstly with me and the clock, but measuring myself against those around me is still important to me.
5) Allowing me to eat the foods I love guilt free - My diet has, and always will leave something to be desired. Since taken up running I have tried to improve it in certain areas, I'm now able to get some Breakfast inside me in the mornings, and my lunchtime ritual of cooking pasta and then washing up the mess I have created has become a part of my routine. But I still love my chocolate and crisps and my Mum's full blown Sunday Roasts. Running allows me to have these foods and not worry about the impact they will have on me. I'll just have to run abit harder the next day.
6) To be outdoors & active - This reason might be higher in my list if I lived somewhere else. My running routes are not varied, in the winter I have two circuits and the rest of the year I have three. I think this is down to a lack of options, but I am also a slave to the watch so like to run routes I am familar with and can pace well. My two winter routes are running on pavements alongside busy roads and particuarly in the dark, aren't hugely appealing. But today I was able to run in the day, and the Bridle Track wasn't too wet and muddy and it was fantastic! I wasn't too concerned with my time, it's only two days after Great Bentley and I just wanted to get out. The sun was out and I just cruised around 5 laps of the Bridle track and was beaming by the time I had finished.
7) Stress relief & time to myself - I am fortunate that I am a fairly laid back person, I do seem to be getting less so as I get older. Whilst my job also taxes my brain, I am yet to rise to a high enough position that I take work home with me physically or in the mind. So my stress levels aren't particuarly high. But even so after a busy day with the all the noise and distractions of modern life it's very pleasant to be able to lace up my shoes and head out by myself for a 40 minute run when the mood takes me.
8) To lose weight - I was not blessed with abs of steel or biceps to crack nuts with, but I was lucky to be naturally thin, and so my mum gave me the nickname Slim. This got expanded on overtime but I won't go into that. Far too embarassing. But after leaving Uni and sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day with not much in the way of exercise I started to put on a bit of weight. Nothing too dramatic maybe I was 13 or 13 and a half stone but it wasn't the physique I wanted. I didn't go out of my way to lose weight, there was no diet, but after a year of running I was back to my more natural weight of 11 and a half to 12 stone and I felt much better for it.
9) For a good cause - I have been very fortunate in my life, that I have not suffered alot of bereavement nor had family members suffer from horrible diseases such as Cancer. This maybe one of the reasons why I don't feel compelled to run for charity very often, the only time I did make a serious effort for fund raising was for the Great North Run in 2010. We also intend to cycle LEJOG in July 2011 and this will be for St Anthony's a Childrens Home in South Africa where my Sister has worked over the previous two years. This cause is close to our hearts and so gives me motivation to fund raise for it. But in general my running and physical challenges are seperate from my charitable giving. I don't enjoy nagging friends and family for sponsorship and I run nearly a race a month so I could bankrupt some people! Also having run over 20 races, a 10K is not a huge physical feat for me anymore, and so in my opinion not worthy of sponsorship.
10) For the social aspect & sense of community - I am yet to join a running club, and if I do at sometime in the future it will be more for the good training it provides and for the potential to improve my performances rather than for the social aspect. Running for me is a solitary thing, and although I do enjoy the buzz of runners and crowds around me in big City races, I rarely speak to any of my fellow runners. The one exception being the great race I had running alongside Pete for 10 miles in Bristol.
So there you have it. The end of my most mammoth blog by some distance! Congratulations to you for reading it through to it's conclusion. This list of reasons for running is by no means exhaustative and there are many other reasons for running that I haven't mentioned. Whilst others will disagree with my order of importance. Reading it back I do look a little too driven and focused, with the softer more pleasant reasons for running such as for charity or to make friends very low on my list. But we are who we are, and I am who I am. Thanks for reading.