It’s 6:15am and I’m in my running gear, standing at the laundry door, watching the sun rise through sleepy eyes. My body still feels like it’s back in bed and I’m sleep deprived from staying out late with friends the night before, but I’m about to put myself through 90 mins of physical exertion that’ll leave me tired, achy, and probably with one less toenail. Yet something drives me to do it and it is part of my everyday routine. So how have I got to this point, that running has become such a habitual part of my life? And why do I do it?
Ask any runner this and they will give you a different answer. Usually I tell people, perhaps weakly, “because I enjoy it”, and I do, just not 100% of the time. When I began running I fell in love with the sensation of weightlessness, and how your body is propelled forward, up and down hills, by the power of your own two legs. I also relish in the spirit of competition with myself and the sense of achievement I gain from this. Striving to shave half a minute off your best time all seems a bit senseless really – it doesn’t improve your financial return or make the world a better place, so what’s the point in investing so much time and energy in running? After some contemplation I decided running gives me a way of measuring myself, and when I reach new levels in my physical fitness I feel a sense of accomplishment and therefore a purpose.
Running is a past time where what you put in reflects what you get out of it. Each day you get a little bit stronger and a little bit faster but it takes a lot of persistence before you notice any real change. This is just as Haruki Murakami describes in his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, where “in long-distance running the only person you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be”. And this translates to other areas of life too, by finding strength in the hardest of times and becoming a stronger person as a result. Matthew Inman (a.k.a The Oatmeal) explains this phenomenon in his comic about why he runs long distances, which you can read for yourself here: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/running4
But along with strength, running can give us a way of release and mental clarity. Take the Japanese Marathon Monks of Hiei: they embark on a challenge called Kaihogyo where they must run 1,000 marathons in 1,000 days (in straw sandals, not Icebugs!) to attain enlightenment. The monks then send the final nine days of their quest without food, water, or rest to bring the body as close as possible to death. These guys take the phrase “Do or Die” to a whole new level as, if a monk chooses to quit Kaihogyo, he must take his own life. So it isn’t hard to see why only 64 men have completed the challenge in the past 130 years. The reasoning behind Kaihogyo is that “the constant movement gives you lots of time to think about
Now, that was all very philosophical and deep wasn’t it? To lighten the mood here’s something for the locals – a time lapse video of a local trail called The Birdwalk. Enjoy!