Running clears my mind. But that’s not why I run. Running helps me think. But that’s not why I run. Running gives me an escape. But that’s not why I run. I just love to run.
There is a mystical quality to running. From the ancient Greek messenger who carried news of victory 26 miles from Marathon to Athens only to expire on arrival, to Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile, to Ronaldo da Costa’s marathon world record, runners have confounded the rest of the world. No one is quite sure what to make of these slender warriors, competing against each other and their own self-doubt.
Many of the sedentary public simply ask Why? Why would any sane person subject themselves to the kind of torture which runners seek out? Why would anyone drive to a hill just to run up and down it until their legs give out?
Those of a more inquisitive nature ask How? How can someone train for six months for a 15-minute race? How can someone beat up on their body day after day, year after year, and become upset when forced to miss a day?
Any runner has their own answers to these questions, and imparting the knowledge to others is more difficult than mile repeats in August.
A large part of the population considers runners rather eccentric, passing them off as a minor disturbance to their orderly lives. However, there are a few unsympathetic people who feel somehow threatened by runners. I have experienced insults, laughter, mocking and screaming from these types – but, thankfully, nothing serious has occurred.
Perhaps it is the unusual sight of a grown man sprinting down a street that strikes fear into a “regular” person. Some people assume that anyone crazy enough to be a runner has to be fleeing from something, and so they associate runners with criminals. Even so, most non-runners have a good deal of respect for this strange breed of athletes.
There is a certain romanticism surrounding running. The nature of running is solitary and the image of a lone harrier gliding effortlessly over rolling countryside still awakens strong emotion in all those who have experienced it. Even unlucky souls who have never enjoyed the pleasure of a run along a quiet lakeside trail at sunrise are stirred by the idea. How else to explain the throngs of non-runners lining Heartbreak Hill at Boston or flocking to the finish line in New York? Drawn to the pride of the finishers and the agony of the dropouts, even the most dispassionate observer cannot help being moved.
I am not a great runner. I will live a runner, and I will die a runner, but running is not my life. I will never go to the Olympics, and I will probably never win a race. But I do not run for the glory. I do not run for the recognition. I do not run for the money.
I JUST LOVE TO RUN.
(Essay by Scott Sargrad, Fitness Runner Magazine, May/June 2000)