Ron Marinucci: Why we Run - August, 2013

Ron Marinucci: Why we Run - August, 2013

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom.” Roger Bannister.

Why is it that we run? I’ll bet most runners have been asked that question, especially by their non-running friends. As tedious as the question may seem at times, particularly from those who don’t run, I think it’s a good one.

Others see us logging all those miles on the roads or tracks or trails, slogging for all those hours, and don’t understand. Maybe they are trying to “get it.” Thoughtful answers from us might explain and may even help convert the non-runners.

I think that we can enhance our own running, too, by asking why and then thinking about our answers. Socrates once postulated, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Maybe we should ask ourselves exactly why we put in all those miles and all that time. Sometimes, it might be what gets us out the door on one of those mornings.

In his book, Why We Run, Bernd Heinrich explores the biological and evolutionary imperatives. Although the book is interesting, I’m not sure the answers have to be that complex.

Michael Holmes runs “because I’m blind. It’s about the only way to get active.” He also noted, when he started, running helped him to stop smoking. “Now, I run to stay in shape and keep my health.” He’s certain, “It’s slowing my aging process.” He also cited other reasons. “We can be outside all-year long. I’ve met some great people through running, too.” And he also got a bit spiritual. “God didn’t give us these bodies to waste. So, it’s up to us not to waste them.”

Dave Cahan is a doctor in Boston and a college mate of mine. He mused, “Why I [still] run? For me the answer is simple: I feel better after a good run. [I am] more alert, energized physically, more relaxed and fit, too. If I don’t run for some reason—and that’s rare—I just never seem to ‘wake up.’” He added, “I’ll keep running.”

Michigan runner Tracey Cohen has been running for almost three decades. She was brief and to the point. ‘I run for me because I love to run and to be outside.” She still races quite a bit. But for her, “races, hardware, [and the rest] are all just gravy.”

Brian Lane is the founder and CEO of Fifty-two4Mom, a charitable organization that assists visually impaired runners. “Running for me clears my mind to be a more creative person,” he related. He also uses running to help others. ‘I’m a guide runner to help be a part of inspiring others to push themselves to do things others say they can’t. He went on, “I guide through the USABA [United States Association of Blind Athletes].” In 2012, he aided blind runners in the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon in DC and in the California International Marathon. Both races served as national championships for blind runners at their distances. And Lane added, “I guide my mom for some local 5Ks.”

Appreciation for running took a different turn for former Michigan and now Indiana runner Dan McMillion. He quit running for a while and realized he missed it—a lot. Pressure and stress at work, too much coffee, he said, began to add up. “It’s something about running which helps burn off the stress—and coffee!—and allows you to clearly debrief your day. That was something I missed.” And, after some thought, he added, “At this stage in my life I’m not worried about how fast I am in my age bracket or how many runs I get in for the year. I didn’t realize how much I missed that [running] time alone to help put my life back into perspective.”

Anthony Targan has been “running regularly” since 2002. He initially was challenged by a friend to join him in running a marathon as they both turned 40. “Now,” he said, “I run because it gives me a feeling of life in balance—body, mind, and spirit working in rhythm.” He’s also competitive. “I race because I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself to do my best.”

As I read through all of these, I nodded. To one degree or another these are all reasons I run, too. Of course I run for my health. I once read, although I don’t remember where, that every hour running (or engaged in similarly intense exercise) adds half an hour to one’s life. I don’t know if that’s true, but I like the numbers. Running helps to keep my weight in check. I enjoy my eating and drinking. In fact, Karen has often said I would weigh “400 pounds” if I didn’t run as much as I do.

Running also lets me satisfy my competitive urges. In matters that really count or ones of my choosing, I am quite competitive. I don’t like to lose, again, when it counts. Running has replaced the ball sports I played as a kid and through college. My competition is now mainly with myself—previous times, efforts, etc.

I enjoy the social aspect of running, too. It has allowed me to meet some good people. I like seeing running friends as races several times a year. I enjoy running two times a week with friends. My weekend run with Bob Drapal is “Yak, Yak, Yak” from start to finish. I’m not sure we solve the world’s problems, but we certainly discuss them. One day a week my training partner is Michael Holmes, a blind runner. We don’t run as far or as regularly as we once did, but I look forward to this time, too.

At the same time, I relish running by myself. With so much going on in my fast-paced life, it’s good to get some solitary time to think, to put those thoughts in some semblance of order. It’s a time I can talk to myself. I often chuckle to myself during these runs, recalling non-runners who sometimes say, “…but running is so boring!” How can one be “bored” with one’s own thoughts?

Perhaps as much as any reason, I run because it gets me outside and active. I love being outside doing things, in every season. My neighbors see me still pushing a lawn mower, raking leaves, shoveling snow. Running keeps me outside twelve months a year, for an hour or more each day. And my body gets to work, the way it was meant to do.

I guess I had never considered running in such terms as Bannister used, but maybe that’s it. Running helps to satisfy that “craving for freedom.”