Writer’s note: Generally speaking I like to let me ideas marinade a bit. Think about them for a few runs, and a few showers. Try to make sure this is something I want to try to write about. Something I want to attempt to express. While I don’t always succeed in what I set out to accomplish (kind of like running amiright?), I try to put my own little spin on universal ideas. Here is my shot at why we run. . .
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to attempt something that has been a personal streak of mine. Not the kind of streak that most people think about when it comes to running. No, I have a weekly day off that I cherish. This is something that I didn’t even intend to start. It began in the Spring of 1996, during the track season of my freshman year of high school. It continued to the starting line of a local road race. The streak was 20 years of running a sub five minute mile at least once during the year. The Lincoln Mile was to be my 21st year. The only problem was that it was the least confident I had been going into a mile race and just wanted to keep it close.
Have you ever surveyed a group of people why they run? Try it with your Saturday long run group. Approach an after work track session and see what they say. You ask the question fifty times, you are likely to get fifty different answers. It is a question I have become somewhat obsessed with the last few years. I work with high school kids in both cross country and track. While I try to avoid applying the mental state of teens to the population as a whole (spend some time around a group of sixteen year olds and you will get an idea of what I mean), there has to be some crossover. Getting kids to run is a challenging task. Most of it stems from the fact that there is a fear there. A fear of coming in last or failing at something. Pretty common perspectives, but as most of us know, mostly irrational. But I would be curious if these same fears apply to the “adult”demographic. Is it fear, or just the simple friction of life that keeps a person from starting to run (or at least exercise)?
It is my experience that once people start running, give it a few weeks, run a some races, and see some progression they seem to find a lot of value in it. But then the question pops up, why KEEP running? That is where my story of the mile picks back up.
There were some factors working against me in 2017. I had spend most of my spring getting ready for an ultra distance race that was in June. I had mostly been away from track/speed work. I was beat from the race. I was a year older. This is where you can blend all of the reasons people continue to pursue what is really a fairly silly activity in the scheme of things.
So why oh why do we do it? When I say “we”, I might mean “me”. When I say “me”, I mean runners. It distills down to one idea. No matter your origin story. No matter what, who, or why you laced up shoes the first time. No matter your talent. Your experience. Your speed. We all pursue something that is likely out of reach. We run to achieve the improbable. The impossible is just that. No matter what I did, or do, there are certain performances that are out of my reach. But within my own sphere of expectations, and abilities, and work there are goals to be set. Then, oh then. If the weather aligns, and the training comes together, and the course is right, and the competition is there, and the mental game is strong. I might just do something that I wasn’t sure I could do. Chasing the idea of the improbable slashes through all types of runners. Because running is itself improbable. It is incredibly unlikely that a given person will make the Olympics, or meet a goal time in their first 5k, or just start running in general. The very fact that it is unlikely, takes running from a simple pursuit to a way to challenge ourselves. To not miss out on what your potential might be. At the very least, trying to find your potential.
The possibility is what got me to the starting line. It is also what had me cross the finish line four minutes and fifty-five seconds later. Twenty-one in a row and counting. . . .