Friday, December 30, 2011
Why Do You Run?
Today I saw on post on Trail Runner Nation asking the question "Why do you run Ultramarathons? Why Why Why..." I hear that question all the time in magazines, canteens, and latrines. Usually the answer is something quippy like "because I can" or "so I can drink more beer." I never really thought of the real reason why I do it. I figured it out and here's the long answer.
I started running four years ago this February directly on the heels of quitting smoking after 15 years of loyal puffing. I figured 30! cigarettes a day at 7 minutes each was an extra three and a half hours of time I gained by not standing around smoking. I asked myself
"Self, what are you going to do with all that free time?
Um, I dunno, maybe start a non-profit teaching kids who grew up in a digital age what clockwise versus counter-clockwise is?
Well, we used to like running when we were in high school.
That sounds good. Let's roll with that."
And that's how it started. I put on my running shoes and headed out the front door with no thought to whether I would do it again after I gave it this try. Well, I kept jogging a little at a time and started looking up stuff and clubs on the internet when I discovered the Hill Country Trail Runners in my town, Austin,TX. I hadn't even considered running in the woods but when I saw their website I said slowly out loud "TRAIIIL RUNNNNING." My eyes got big, the clouds parted, angels played harps and butterflies left their cocoons. I knew EXACTLY where I was putting my running shoes down next. I did a couple of 5Ks, then did my first 50 miler, Rocky Raccoon.
I ran the first loop like a crazy man, then had the pleasure of finding out what the death march is all about for the other two loops. Even after a somewhat miserable experience, it was only three days before I was back out on the trails for the Wednesday Club Run But why? I am not huge on the thoughts of revenge or redemption so I did not feel the need to "take care of unfinished business," training relentlessly in a montage like Rocky Balboa after getting it handed to him. Furthermore I do not consider myself an over obsessed nut. Then what is it that keeps me coming back?
The real reason? I like to explore and I like to ambulate in the sense of the word meaning to move about. Bruce Lee once said "If you love life don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of." Trail running allows me to enjoy more of both of these by speeding up both the rate at which I move about and the amount of land I get to explore. Awesome!
I moved away from the birthplace of my trail running, Austin, TX and back to my hometown of Seneca, SC in the Golden Corner of South Carolina at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. When I was younger I did some hiking and camping, but there are still tons of trails left unexplored by me. With my increased confidence and competence at covering large distances unsupported I get to take in large doses of these beautiful mountains. Within a 30 minute drive there is a 77 mile-long trail that stretches between two state parks and goes right over the top of the tallest mountain in South Carolina. Just beyond that trail is the beginning of another that runs 111 miles from the South Carolina/Georgia Border into North Carolina and meets up with the Appalachian Trail. 15 minutes away is an experimental forest surrounding uninhabited Issaqueena Lake with 47 miles of trails.
The possibilities are endless for my exploring mind. So, how long will I keep running? I don't know. There sure are lots of bears, hogs, and hunting all year round so it's hard to say. But one thing is for sure. I'd have to be trying pretty hard in order to be bored. And I want to see a lot more.
I'll leave you with a couple things Matt Kirk said after run/hiking the 930+ mile Mountains to Sea Trail in North Carolina in 24 days. I got them from the Fastest Known Times website which I will be writing about next.
"I wish to inspire people of all ages to break free of the self-destructive habit of driving everywhere and get out and use their original God-given vessels, their bodies, for transportation. There are a million excuses, and some of them are fairly legitimate, for remaining encapsulated inside a car. But the benefits of walking, running and biking are undeniable."
"I like to hike."