Why do I run?

Why do I run? – 19 reasons
I

Why do I run? it’s about running and life

…well I run for different reasons because it depends on where you are in the yearly and life running cycle. I believe all runners go through the same cycle and it does not matter about age. It comes back to what you want to get out of running. 

For me it started around 1984 with the Bunyip Burrawang 8 km east of Bowral in the Southern Highlands. I was living with two teachers Bernard and Tonia and we just ran. Tonia would run in the morning and Bernard would run in the morning and evening. I was an afternoon and night time runner. Running became a lifestyle thing – running in Bowral was the overseas trip I never had. 

When I moved out of Bowral in 1990 and returned to Sydney it was then I realised what I got out of running – through what I was missing. I was entering a different stage of my running and life cycle. This was a subtle change which I identified retrospectively.

Running once completely dominated my life now running was just becoming part of my life. Running was just something you did everyday or every couple of days depending on what life was throwing at you at the time. It is just like going out and getting the milk and bread each day. You notice it when you do not have a run and eventually you just have to go out and get the milk and bread yourself. 

II

Why Do I Run – Slowing Down

There is another thing that happens – you slow down. It is a challenge to run and cope with slowing down – I sort of like that challenge. The slowing down in running was a real grieving process; so much so that I just had to throw away my watch – which I did for everything in my life. I could not run a sustained 4 minute km any more and this was really frustrating. At races instead of finishing in the top 20% I was in the middle of the pack or rather I was sliding out the back of the pack till in 2009 I actually got last place in a race – which is another story.

Ironically I am very proud of that last place. You can still enjoy running and slow down.

In the grieving process you try other things in my case triathlons in the 1980s and 1990s and longer slower runs in the 2000s. All these strategies were based on changing and raising the bar and working with in the body and minds limitations. The key thing is that I always wanted to keep running.

III

Running is Social

The next thing I noticed about running was the social side of it. Well with the internet it is even more social than it was. Once back in Sydney and with a young family I would run by myself mostly at night. I just love running at night, perhaps second to a nice warm day when I don’t have to rush back for work and life. I have been known to drive a 320 km round trip for a nice 6 km run with a friend in Kiama. In the early days in Bowral training was more social than races. 

I would turn up at a race and just leave at the end. I never really connected. This all changed with the internet , specifically Cool Running. A Community of Practice , or an online running community began to evolve where you would go to races and you could connect and share ideas with people about running. For me the social side of running is very important I don’t hesitate to spend a few hundred dollars, when I am injured, to fly to QLD just to be there with the running community for the Gold Coast Marathon. With running I connect with all walks of life, make great friends and I just like being around runners.

IV

The process of running

Running is a challenge, it does not matter how fast or slow you are, once you establish a goal you just go for it. Running is like life where you have goals, you plan, you train you make mistakes and you learn from these mistakes. 

In the 1980s it was all about running sub 4 minute kms for as long as I could. 1986 was a golden era. I call this the Beatles factor. When you are on top you are only there for a while For example, Ron Clarke set a string of world records in a few weeks in May in the mid 1960s. When the wave comes you need to be prepared and just have to ride it. My speed wave came in 1986 where I consistently ran sub 4 minute pace for 5, 6, 10 12 and 14km and I was also able to run sub 4 minute pace for the run leg of triathlons. 

I started to change my goals and try and run faster in the longer events so in this period I also set my marathon PB (3:42). The goal was to finish the marathon and it was to become my PB. My half marathon PB came in 1991 but that is another story and it was not sub 4 minute pace.

After the marathon the goal changed to running a marathon in each decade of my life. For me the marathon was never about running faster it was just running it. The 1986 marathon scared and scarred me so much I did not run my second marathon for another 12 years in Canberra. Though I did have a firm goals of running theOlympic course in 2000. This marathon was the only marathon I actually trained to a schedule for and it was technically the best marathon I have run and the second fastest. The whole process of the training and the racing fell into place – unlike the first marathon which was a shambles. Every time I see the blue line in Sydney I get emotional.

So finally on the process of running the goals changed to running longer and this lead to my interest in the Six Foot Track Marathon and my firs ultra marathon where I ran from Gosford to the Opera House and came a proud last place and loved every minuteof it. 

V

Soul Running

Besides the challenge and goals of running the other thing about running for me is that it is good for the soul. Sometimes I want to run and other times I don’t feel like running but every time I finish I am glad I went for the run. 

In fact my family can see when I need a run- how can I put it – I become high maintenance and they say – “Just go for a run”. 

Going for a run is good for my Domestic Tranquillity Index (DTI) – the irony is that running can be good and bad for your DTI. Fortunately, in my life it is a good thing because everyone knows it is just part of my life. 

It is the core of my being these soul runs. 

I just head out with no plan and run. Sometimes it is with semi-trailers along Pennant Hills Road at night or through the bush in the suburbs around where Ilive. Time is not a factor. I just take my phone and run . One day I came from the city which is 21 km and it took over 2 hours. I could have run it faster. I was so frustrated I just went out for a bush run at 7:30pm and got home at 11:30pm. 

It was a perfect soul run. 

Once I become centred the positive outlook spreads into all aspects of my life. 

VI
Running helps you be positive

Not many people admit this. I also run because of the recognition I get and how it helps my mental state. I have been inspired by others and sometimes people are interested in what I do and this is good for the self esteem. 

On the morning after I did my first ultra marathon I was inundated and overwhelmed by the messages I got. I woke up to a text from Tim “aren’t you the guy who ran from Gosford to the Opera House?” Sure I was really proud of my achievement but what touched me the most was the support and recognition I received from a whole range of people. Some were inspired by my effort and others inspired me to do more. 

From these running experiences and sometimes the recognition you get self confidence. I don’t mean arrogance just a belief that life is not to bad. You can push yourself to a certain limit, come out the other side and have a story to tell. I hobble around work the next day after a long run with the surreal feeling of accomplishment and no one really understands what is going on in your head or what I did the day before. 

Usually I feel good about myself and this positive outlook rubs off on those around you. You can see the calmness in runners who have experienced this. 

There is a clearness in their eyes, a composure in their stature and it helps in their decision making and lifestyle.

VII

Wellness

I did not start running for health reasons but I continue running for health reasons. Or I prefer to use the expression wellness. 

It is a fine line between running too much, effecting your immune system and getting sick when you are preparing for a big race. In my first marathon I stopped sweating and all I wanted to do is have a sleep in the gutter on Anzac Parade. I had had enough. 

I seem to have a self preservation button or I just don’t push hard enough. I have not pushed hard enough to have renal failure and I am sure there are other nasties that I don’t know about. I did finish the Port Half Ironman in 2005 and went to get a drip but there were too many others lines up so I just crashed on the grass instead – I probs should have had a drip. 

Those extremes aside, in the 1990s I was in hospital for abit and I kept setting off the heart machine because my heart rate was too low for the threshold they had set up. I am sure my fitness helped me through the time there. Also I notice if I get a cold or the flu the I recover pretty quickly. 

Due to my running I do try and eat well. I have not been that good on this front – a work in progress. For me the determining factor on my eating is keeping the weight below 80kg. I sort of use running as an excuse for eating junk. 

VIII

Heightened Awareness

Some times when I am running I notice the run is over. I know where I have been but have no recollection of crossing roads stopping for cars dodging bikes and dogs. For this post, however, heightened awareness is where I am completely in touch with the environment around me the wind on my face or on my back, the texture of the spiderwebs I run through, the sound of birds in the trees or the leaves rustling high above me. 

This also includes a real heighten awareness of my body: my heart, breathing and different muscles all come into and out of focus. It is a really interesting sensation and it does not consciously happen all of a sudden I just notice it while I am running.

IX

The lightbulb moment

One of the things I also like about running is the light bulb moment where an issue I have been pondering or a decision that I have to make just clicks when I am on a run. 

In my case decisions about work changes, buying and selling houses or even individual sentences for what I am writing at the time come to me in a crystalised form. 

The light bulb moment is a clarity of thinking you get when you empty your mind while running.

X

To Learn Humility

Running is challenge no matter what your ability level. There are moments when you have to dig deep and be humbled by witnessing the effort of others. Personally it is humbling when I am confronted by the raw experience of running. 

The moments when I push so hard and my heart is coming out of my chest and my legs are screaming are mostly a distant memory. The times I am running in the bush and not sure where to go next and the sun is setting sometimes scares me. 

I respect running.

XI
The OC factor

The thing about running I like is that it teaches you to balance extremes with moderation. My very first reason for liking running was because it is about running and life. I did not elaborate that it is about balance running and life. 

Sometimes running just totally dominates life leaving all other thing of life and work in the background. Some times this is even to the point of having impact on personal health. 

I mean this in the nicest way. I think a lot of runners have some Obsessive Compulsive in us – particularly runners as It takes something like this to keep training and racing. Sometimes the running replaces other OC issues as well. 

I went completely over the top with running in 2005-2006 running long and faster than normal and a lot more frequently. The extreme nature of this was good while things were going well but it did push my body to the edge. This was in direct contrast to other extreme of not wearing a watch nor tracking my runs, if I ran at all, from 2000-2004. Rarely have I gone to the extreme of not running for an extended period of time 

I am not sure of how to balance moderation and extremes with optimal performances but I think the closest was the Sydney Olympic Marathon course run in 2000. All through the 1990s I monitored the different trial versions of the course with the goals of running it prior to the Olympics. 

When 2000 came around I, for the first and only time ever, employed a marathon training programme stuck to it and had my best evenly paced marathon to date. 

I am still working on the balance.

XII

I like learning from Injuries

No one runs to get injuries but I like running to understand them. I have been fortunate on the injury front. The odd bike crash, ankle roll on trails and ITB in the 1980s. In 2005-2006 I did not over train for the Six Foot Track race, as I was conscious of that, I just did too much hill running and and did my OP and hip which put me out for a year or so and turned me to 6 km running. Six km running has been a marvellous discovery.

I am struggling again at the moment with a left forefoot injury from going hard on the bike and running in the Nepean Triathlon. Not that I like injuries but I don’t mind them because they make me take stock of running and life and focus on the bigger picture – the main one being running for many years to come yet. 

Injuries make you pay closer attention to your body, your training and race goals. That time enables me to focus on other areas of my life which get neglected and need attention.

So I like running because what I learn from injuries but I don’t like injuries.

XIII

I like training

I planned to do 13 reasons and I keep thinking of more so there is a while before my planned last one.

I am surprised I did not think of this one earlier. It was so obvious. I actually like training. I notice it more when I cannot do it. 

Training is the organising principal of my day, my week and even my holidays. I look at the week ahead and then determine which days I can run and at what time of the day I can fit them in. 

Hopefully my days of graduating to walking are a few years away yet.

XIV

Weight management

Now people get annoyed with me when I say this because I really don’t have a weight issue but I feel duty bound to be around my BMI and I spend most of my time above the top end and just over where I should be which is 79kgs.

All this aside I actually feel better with my weight just below 80kg. I have often played mind games with this. No VBs, coke and junk food unless I am under 80kgs. If I am not exercising and my weight goes up I get really frustrated and there have been times when this has happened, for example, just before I started back running properly in 2004 as these photos indicate – this change happened in 6 months.

I am actually now quite shocked to see how much I let myself go. 

Now do you you see why I like running?

XV

Cross training aerobic fitness for other sports

For the last month I have mainly been paddling and running. My running gives me the aerobic fitness to do these and other sports without must issue except for muscle soreness when I use muscles I normally don’t use.

Recently Ultra168 asked for thoughts on cross training:

Quote
What non running specific training do you do during the week which has the sole purpose of improving your running?

The biggest benefit I have found has been cycling helps my hill running without the damage to my body that hill running does. Also when training for longer distances I sometimes go for a long ride to tire myself and then go for a run to simulate the fatigue at the end of a marathon or the six foot track.

XVI

I like 6 km running

I sort of fell into running 6km after some prolonged injuries 2005-2008. 

It turns out to be an ideal distance for me and helps me to continue to enjoy running. If I am having a go I get a solid low 30 minute run and if I am bludging I am out for around 40 minutes. 

The distance is good for a number of reasons:

  • These sort of times and distances fall into the suggested exercise duration for each session a few times a week.
  • 5 km is not enough time especially if I have a go. I don’t feel like I have had a good work out when I run for 25 minutes
  • If I forget to click my watch and lap the first km I can lap 2 km intervals also 3 km splits and out and back courses are early to think through.
  • 6 minute pace, 6 km and 60 minutes is easy for my brain to calculate things while running.
  • 6km just seems to be the perfect distance where I can train regularly, not get injured and still race up to a marathon

XVII

It helps with mental discipline

Take today for instance I went out and got a new pair of shoes. You can read about that story here.

I am not really one for randomly getting different types of shoes and gear but I am into things that help my running and comfort in the clothes I wear while running. 

So over the years I have had different sorts of shorts, shoes skins, tights caps watches, watches heart rate monitors… and each time I have purchased them I like to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

I find the mental discipline required challenging and helpful and I try and carry it across into other aspects of my life and decisions I make. 

XVIII

It is fun

Running is fun. I go on a holiday and I look where I can run. 

I look forward to coming home to go for a run. 

I drive through Sydney and notice and even look for runners. 

It is always a pleasure to wander by and into a running shop. 

Evidence suggests you have a healthy life and can live longer if you are happy and running contributes to my happiness. 

Hopefully I am still running for decades to come.

Training is fun, racing is fun, runners are fun to be with socially and while on a run. 

19

It helps my professional life