So… why do you run?

Another question I often get from my non-running friends is, “Why do you run?” 

And again the rush of thoughts all fighting to get onto the tongue at once:

  1. For ice cream!!
  2. For stress relief.
  3. For my health and fitness.
  4. Excuse to travel.
  5. See places in a new way.
  6. The cool t-shirt, socks, water bottle, hat, etc. – from races.
  7. The medals.
  8. Not everyone runs these distances.
  9. I feel great after a long run.
  10. Because I can.

There are three other marathon runners in my family.  Only two of us have run one together – and I hope to change that.  I don’t know or care who finishes in what time.  For me, the other runners in my family are a huge motivation.  If they can do it, I can do it.  A couple of them have run in very large or international marathons.  The particular challenges and joys of each race are only known to them but the stories are awesome.  I don’t know why they run, I’m just so glad they do. 

Anyone who isn’t a professional or competitive athlete and has run a race of any length knows that finishing it is an accomplishment.  Certainly anyone who has run a marathon knows that finishing is winning.  You run against yourself or your running buddies or the standards of the sport – the Boston Qualifying Time.  The PR, the measurable improvement, the knowledge that running such a distance is the culmination of training and determination, sacrifice and devotion – all these things drive the running addict.  The medals earned, the t-shirts and other race goodies, the knowledge you can now go eat more or less anything that sounds good – all of this keeps us coming back for more. 

But… would I run without the goodies? 


There’s always the joy of ice cream, after all.

Originally, this post ended right there.  But as I read it this morning, I realize it’s not quite…  It doesn’t…  There is something missing.

The list at the beginning is true, as far as it goes.  But it’s not complete or even very comprehensive. 

The best thing about running, for me, is that it ultimately comes down to me and the run.  If I am logging my training miles out in the country or deep in the pack of an organized race, I am essentially alone.  My legs and lungs.  My heart and determination.  If I do well it is because I trained well.  If I don’t do well it is ultimately because I didn’t prepare.  There are no excuses to self and there is no place to hide.

Running isn’t about who I am.  It’s about who I can become.  I can be stronger and faster.  It doesn’t matter that I don’t place in races.  I run.

Yesterday, while doing some research for another post, I had an amazing exchange with Steve Boone, co-founder with his wife Paula of the 50 States Marathon Club.  I happened upon a post by a self-proclaimed “quality” marathoner deriding the members of the club for essentially being so frivolous as to run marathons whenever they feel like it.  Some members run one or two marathons a year and others run one or two marathons a week.  Steve posted an answer and his final sentence resonated so deeply with me I emailed him for permission to pass it on.  I didn’t actually expect a quick reply.  Both the original post I found and his reply were from a couple of years ago.  It was Saturday, after all.  He may have been running a marathon or something.  Luckily for me, his recent marathon was LAST week and so he was around and graciously agreed. 

This is the sentence: “…the first finisher and the last finisher run the same distance on the same course with the same courage.” 

Okay.  That’s where today’s post ends.

About wfig

Longtime horsewoman and hiker, occasional world traveler and professional biologist.
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4 Responses to So… why do you run?

  1. Haha says:

    I am impressed that Steve Boone was so attentive and responded to your question quickly. Do you suppose you will establish a dialog with him over time? I love the quote and it resonates completely with me. There is no stigma to finishing last. Finishing is, itself, winning. When, where, why, did you decide to run your first marathon? What inspired you to tackle it?

  2. wfig says:

    In his response to me, Steve said he hopes they will see me at an event sometime. Part of my plan for this year is to join the 50 States Club – that is one of the reasons all my planned marathons are in different states. You join after running in 10 different states.
    When my sister-in-law said she was going to do the Denver Marathon in 2009 as her first and asked if I would join her… I couldn’t say no. I’d been wanting to do one and it looked like the time might be right. And, we could figure out the logistics together.

  3. Haha says:

    Will you have met your goal of a marathon in 10 states by the end of next year?

  4. wfig says:

    I sure hope so! Fingers crossed!

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