Why Run

I would never identify as a “runner,” though by now I would admit I have participated in serious enough running to qualify. Growing up, I was never particularly good at running: I rarely ran on my own, I was not on the cross country team, and my soccer teammates (and coaches) at one point nicknamed me turtle (not to be confused with the tortoise that eventually wins the race).

I do not exactly have a runner’s body (or at least the way I understand the professionals)—I am built rather wide? (not fat really at all, but wide-boned of sorts such that I have to work intentionally to lose weight, rather than the people you know that are default skinny and have to eat extremely intentionally to gain weight). (Aside, I have always thought that, similar to boxing, you should run and your time should be tracked against your weight class rather than your age. Food for thought :)).

For some odd reason or another, maybe three years ago (right when that pandemic-thing was starting), I began running. I started slow and short but gradually have built up my “running pedigree of sorts” (now having run a marathon and dozens of half marathons). I run something like 20 miles per week casually. Perhaps stating the obvious—I am not an exceptionally good runner by any means in that there are certainly people materially faster than me (and better at achieving long distance feats, etc.). But while I find myself to be an extremely competitive person—in many areas of my life I hate losing including: basketball, company building, and card games—running has never been about going longer and harder than the person next to me.

The truth is that thousands of miles into my running career, even to this day, I would not say I run with a particular objective or goal.

I run now, for nearly the same reasons that I write, to SURVIVE.

Surely that sounds a bit dramatic, but I think it most accurately captures my experience running.

Running, like writing, is a core part of my approach to processing the world around me—to untangling knots in my brain and clarifying ideas. When I run, I do not generally think about a _particular thing_. Similar actually to while I am writing or meditating, the experience I have while running is ~weirdly therapeutic in that my mind wanders, returns to presence, and repeats over and over. I let the monkey mind out of the cage, not distracted by notifications (or the treadmill/casino that is our phone), and let IT drive me rather than the other way around. This is a truly special experience of presence. It is something I _rarely_ experience when near INTERNET CONNECTED DEVICES. I get this experience while in the midst of a hard lift or towards the end of a long run or while I am halfway through a particularly engaging book. It is this experience of presence—this experience of being both locked into the moment BUT ALSO not caring all too much about a particular objective (other than moving forward) that gives me such a weird sense of delight. (Again, it reminds me of the buddhist/way of zen practice of sorts of ACHIEVING NIRVANA BY NOT WANTING but rather existing. Running is a version of that for me).

Running is as much (perhaps even more) for my mental health as it is for my physical health.

And on the latter topic, it is not clear to me or at least I have read inklings of evidence that say running can actually be _detrimental_ to your physical health (especially over a long period of time). My gut, or at least a voice in my brain, tells me to ignore that advice. I am not sure if I will regret this (and even writing about it!) but a relatively loud voice in my head tells me that not running is the product of being lazy (not wise!).

And so, I run.

While I go lift weights often too (something like 6 days a week in my current routine of sorts)—lifting does not really give me the same experience. I am not sure why other than there being too many distractions that block me from getting into a flow state.

When I am having a bad day, the thing that helps me the most—beyond literally any other activity I have found thus far—is going on a run.

Running is great because I have no excuses for not being able to run. Even if it’s raining, I can still lace up my shoes (I wear Hokas nowadays) and get moving. This is similar to why I like writing, especially blogging (with no editor other than myself) because LIKE BRUSHING MY TEETH, my only real excuse for not writing is my own laziness.

Aside, something I have noticed about myself is that I tend to PREFER environments like this—when I am in control and have no one to blame but myself for not achieving an outcome. I like this what appears to be at minimum an illusion of free will.

Running without a particular goal—outside of just FINISHING THE RUN—is weirdly effective. I always try hard. I say always because it is true. I have never, not once, finished a run and said: “that was easy.”

I believe that knowing how to “go extremely hard” is a skill. I find that most people, myself included, do not realize just how powerful the linkage between the mind and body really is—to the extent that we are often leaving a lot left in the tank. I have to remind myself (often, and often via running) that we are capable of far more than we can even imagine and that many times are biggest limiter is our own brain and belief in ourselves.

Running challenges that notion. It allows you to break limits you set for yourself artificially by pushing your brain to take one more step (and one more step and one more step).

I believe it is this hurdle that drives dopamine to the brain and forces this running addiction to develop (surely there is a better neurological explanation for what is really happening—this I have bookmarked as an area I would like to read a lot more about).

It is this muscle—not the muscles you use in your legs but rather the muscle of BREAKING THROUGH LIMITS that is so so applicable to life. I find this exercise leads to confidence and mental toughness. It tells you that hey my brain may originally think one thing but it turns out that is just a hypothesis and that I am capable of even more than my original conjecture.

I can run more. I can write more. I can achieve more.

And the ONLY THING STOPPING ME IS MYSELF.

That is really why I run. To survive knowing that I have the ability to take one more step.

And if you are reading this, and made it this far, I will say that I am not advising you to run. I am not you and you should decide for yourself. I am lucky, my body is mainly healthy and I am capable physically of running fairly regularly. You may find a different outlet (perhaps writing or reading or painting or some combination) but you can trust that when you find it—whatever that practice may be—you will see an impact that compounds over time.


If you are interested in this subject—the impact of running beyond moving your legs, I would encourage you to explore this book by Murakami (one of my favorite authors).


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