In my recent foray as a host of RunnersRoundTable the discussion moved to “Born to Run” (the book) and Chris McDougall. If you’ve read this blog you’ll know that I’m not a fan, and I pointed out that there is nothing “superior” (my word) about the supposed/alleged Tarahumara running mindset of the old Bobby McFerin song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Poppycock, says I. I run because it is my passion.
Two recent strands relate to this. In one, TK wrote about getting up at 5 in the am to go for a run, albeit weather sent her to a treadmill instead of the roads of her beloved Queens. I don’t want to single her out, because again and again I see blogs of people, some fast, some not so much, getting up before dawn to get in a run or (for at least one triathlete I used to know (JLF) a ride). And I can safely say that all of my “must-reads” do incredible stuff to improve as runners. For the most part, these are late bloomers, recently come to the sport.
Meanwhile, I signed up for the Facebook page for runners at Iona Prep and Ursuline. The current coach, Jan Mitchell, sent me a cool list that showed me as No. 24 all-time at the school for the 2.5 mile course at Van Cortlandt. I posted to him that I thought my class — 1974 — was the first class that started a tradition of track excellence at the school, if only because of our depth. I asked Mitchell about how a school or community, and I pointed to Bronxville, gains a culture in which kids just run. He bemoaned that it’s not so much at Iona Prep because kids have such attraction to glory sports.
This got me thinking. Why do we run? Sure, there’s some glory, but shaving 20 minutes off a marathon isn’t going to matter to anyone but you. Civilians will think the same for your 3:30 as they will for the 3:10 you purchase with much blood, sweat, toil, and tears. Hell, tell them you did the “13.1 Marathon” and they’ll be none the wiser. There’s a physical benefit — although many focus on weight, it’s for maximizing performance and not for generic weight-loss (which is a good thing) — and there’s much to be said for being slim in a world of untucked polo shirts draping over a self-contained airbag. (As I finalized this, BW commented on my Upcoming Races post challenging some of my observations, and his comments are worth a look.)
Still, I can’t answer the question. Why did I show up in 1970, a nearly-blind kid with chipped teeth and a lisp, a complete lack of hand-to-eye coordination, and a father disappointed that his son didn’t make it past the first cut of the freshman football team, for indoor track? Why did I start going out day-after-day in 1979 to run and enter races? Why do I keep doing it? Why is it a passion?
I’m curious. Everyone’s assignment, then, is answering the following question: Why Am I A Runner? (And by “I” I don’t mean me.) Some of my readers are newbies, a year or two or three in. Others are, like me, lifers.