I’m different from a lot of other runners, because running, for its own sake, doesn’t do it for me.
And I’ve been criticized for this, for trying to make the best of something that will always feel hard — instead of spending my time doing things that I naturally love, without having to work at loving them.
The obvious question, then, is why run at all? Why not spend that time on something else that, if pressed, I’d have to admit I’d “rather” be doing?
It’s not that I’m so goal-driven I just can’t help myself. Right now, I don’t even have a big running goal.
And it’s not because running affords me 30 minutes to listen to a podcast or be alone with my thoughts, unreachable by email or phone or any other means. That certainly makes it more enjoyable, but it’s not enough.
And finally, I don’t run for fitness, at least not the way I’m running now. My problem isn’t keeping weight off but keeping it on, and running only makes that harder.
So what’s the point?
When I thought hard about this today, I arrived at two solid, honest reasons why I run.
- Running is good for my brain.
- Running is good for my heart.
The first one is literal. I know that after a run, I’m happier, more able to handle ups and downs, less prone to anxiety than otherwise. It’s not unlike meditation. In fact, it’s just like meditation.
The second is figurative. While running is actually good for my cardiovascular system (and keeping that conditioned certainly has its benefits), what I’m really saying is that running strengthens the fight in me.
Because it’s training — even if not for a race.
Training, instead, for life. For times when you need to keep going, but all you want is to quit. Or probably more frequently, for all the times when you want to start, but starting feels so hard.
The training inherent in the daily act of running — facing down the Resistance, getting out there, and taking that first step — is the real reason I run. And it’s why I’m so much better when I run every day.
The Key to Change is Trust
When you’re unable to change something in your life, something that you know you should be able to change, what’s the problem? Most often, I think, it’s a lack of trust. Not in others, but in yourself.
You say you’re going to wake up early tomorrow. You believe it. But when that alarm goes off, somehow you’re a different person, someone who hits “snooze.” Perform the promise-snooze-promise-snooze routine enough times, and eventually you stop believing what you, yourself, say.
And once you stop believing in your own promises? From there it’s even easier to give up on trying to deliver on them. You never believed it for a second anyway, so nobody gets let down.
But you can change this. All of it.
The way I do is by running. Running every day, for me, is a way to rebuild, and then maintain, that trust.
What I’ve learned this year, just 19 days in, is that every single time I go through the routine (it’s too cold, my legs are too sore, I’m too busy) and find a way to keep the promise I made to myself that I’d run every day in January, my heart gets a little stronger.
And so the next time I tell myself I’m going to do something — start something, build something, try something that might not work — I believe it.
There it is. Why I run.
How about you?
(By the way, here‘s how I answered this question a few years ago. I’ve changed since then.)