The inov8 8 Weeks to Natural campaign has started me thinking about why I run. It would be easier for me to say what I don’t run for. I don’t do it for the glory or the fame. I’m a middle-aged man who is never going to be quick enough for that.
I don’t do it for money, even though The Sore Legs Tour is raising small amounts of money for Macmillan Cancer Support. (All donations gratefully accepted.)
I don’t do it for the medals but I’m proud of the ones I’ve received for completing those races, especially my first one from Cambourne 10k last year and my two marathon medals from Moray 2011 and London this year. I prefer the t-shirts, in fact. I feel especially attached to the lovely, soft cotton one from the Moray Marathon which I wear after a hard race because it’s so comfortable. It’s yellow and cheap and feels like a duster in the making but I worked hard for it for months, not just the time I spent running around Morayshire.
I don’t do it for my friends even though most of my friends now are runners. I was a bit of a lonely soul before. I enjoyed reading most and that’s pretty much the definition of a solitary pleasure. I could share my other pastimes like old cars and older music but I felt better when I went to race meetings on my own or listened to music sat quietly in a church or concert. The shared experience of music is something I left behind somehow when I stopped going to gigs. I never played or sang well enough to make much music with friends either.
Now that I run, I share my time with runners who have become my friends and that’s pulled me out of my shell. I’ll now happily spend time with people as long as I can have my me time too. Some of my friends who weren’t runners before are runners now and a few of them have come out as runners. It used to be a shameful practice, done late at night or very early in the morning, in parks or public gardens or along ill-lit back streets where few went for other purposes. They’d hide the special clothes and shoes they bought in secret from specialist shops or over the internet. Now, because they see me at it they feel empowered themselves. They’re out and they’re proud.
I still don’t do it for them.
I don’t do it for my health. I have asthma and was on the border of COPD. I was smoking and being an arse about it. I’ve written before about my love affair with cigarettes. I don’t want to go through it all again. I’ll just say this: they were wonderful for a while and then they wanted me to die and I don’t want to remember that bit. I just want to remember the good times. Pubs after hours with a beer in one hand, a fag in the other, a buzz in my head and bonhomie in my breast. That’s all gone now and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.
There are compensations. I’m now much less likely to contract lung cancer or heart disease. I’ve reduced the chances of stroke. My asthma has improved and I’m no longer in danger from COPD. I can come in and snog my wife and not worry about the smell of cigarette smoke on my breath. I no longer consume quite so many mints.
But that’s still not why I run.
I run because I feel the joy of movement. When I’m running and I feel the blood in my veins and the air in my lungs and my legs and arms drive me on. When it’s going well – and for the most part it’s been going very well since I started 8 Weeks to Natural – it feels brilliant to run. I feel very free and my movements are easy whether I’m sprinting hard up a hill or cruising along on a long run. It’s partly the training and the new techniques I’ve learned and partly it comes from my head being in a good place.
It just feels good to run.