Why run? Because it is refreshingly hard work
Take a moment to think about why we run. To stay fit? To keep the weight off? To get out in the fresh air? Yes, yes, yes. Now think about it a little harder. Because we love it and enjoy being part of a community that share that love? Yes, definitely. Finally, think about it for a long time. Why, really, do we run? Why do we go out of the door, often alone, in all weather conditions, for no glory? Why do we put other things off, get out of bed at ridiculous times, withstand occasional criticism, scorn and derision to do it?
The real reason? I suspect the underlying driver for most of us is the same -we need something amid our safe and steady lives that we can strive for, to throw our energies into, to attack. Something that doesn’t come easily, that only pays dividends when worked at consistently, methodically, over a long period of time.
In today’s developed world, where convenience and instant gratification is pretty much expected and encouraged, running is refreshingly hard work. Each individual run we do is a sustained effort. The history of our running career is that same sustained effort, just on a much larger scale. That’s something to be proud of. It demands devotion, without which the benefits will not come. It’s the kind of simple, logical justice that I like.
The need to be challenged mentally and physically
We all know running keeps our cholesterol down and increases our bone density, but does that really motivate us? I’d argue not. Rather, it’s much purer than that. It’s actually instinctive and primordial. It’s the need to be challenged, mentally as well as physically.
It’s very easy not to bother. But those of us who do put in the hard work, discover a love for running and embed it in our lives. In turn we reap the rewards, not least the fact it charges our self-belief and delivers a calmness that no sedentary person can experience. And, because it is hard work, we know we deserve it.
The Alps – the ultimate running playground
I’ve recently returned from the Alps mountain range, where I try to spend a couple of months each summer. As well as escaping reality, indulging my addiction to good coffee and soaking up enough vitamin D for the year, I go there to run, train and race.
I go because in the Alps there are an infinite number of trails on which I can challenge my body and mind in every way -from fast and flat to steep and mountainous. I can camp in my van on 2,000m high mountain passes and then run over 1,000m vertical metres from my door. I can run uphill for hours on end. I can train with views of glaciers and snow-capped summits every day.
And then there are the races, which form the backbone of my trip. Covering every corner of the Alps throughout the summer, to do every mountain race there would take more than a person’s lifetime. What ultimately takes me back to the Alps year-in, year-out is the fact that it is a place I know I can put my body through a lot of hard work and fully test my mettle.
That ‘Yes I am Alive’ feeling that reaffirms everything we are here for
I can do so with no distractions -no work, no bills to pay, no traffic jams to sit in. I can race against the best mountain runners on some of the steepest, toughest courses in the world. I can take on every difficulty the Alps can throw at me from the altitude and heat to technical terrain, severe climbs and vicious descents. And, of course, the races -from long races that hollow your insides and drain your very essence to intensely fast courses that make your legs scream in lactic turmoil and your lungs plead for mercy.
My obscure need to test myself in this way is catered for by the ease of access to the high mountains and the flawlessly well-organised race calendar. So the Alps provide me with a setting and a terrain in which I can pursue my running while pulling no punches and making no compromises.
In short, there I can find the challenges that my everyday life lacks. There I can put my abilities to the test, see if I’m as mentally tough as I like to think I am, see what I can push my body to do and ultimately get that ‘Yes I Am Alive’ feeling that doesn’t come too often in life, but when it does come, it reaffirms everything we are here for.