Friday, January 29, 2010

Why do I run?

I don't know, I just like to run.

"A race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways they're capable of understanding." - said Steve Prefontaine about races.

Running, in a similar way, is an experience that also affects people in as many ways as they are capable of  appreciating. In its most basic form, running is so inherent to us that it readily lends itself to a large array of meanings that we might be inclined to assign to it. For instance, a novice may extol running for its health benefits while a veteran, on the other hand, may find spiritual upliftment in it. The question "Why do you run ?", therefore, has as many answers as there are runners. The articulation of this answer, however, is not always easy and specially so when the innate desire to run precedes the conscious motive for running. And I think this is the source of the often repeated existentialist answer  - "I don't know, I just like to run."

So, Why do I run ?

I started running for a break from the routineness of my weight training sessions in gym. But why I continue to run (now exclusively), as I said, I do not know. I just like doing it. So, rather than giving reasons for why I run, I will list down some of the better things I have discovered about it along the way. 

Running affords me an opportunity to disconnect from the external world and have a continual mind-body conversation, which is very difficult otherwise. The conversation starts just before the run when the mind asks the body - "How do you feel?". The body might reply "Good!" in which case mind just says "Kool ! Let's go then." or the body might say "Not good." or "I don't know." and then mind tries to cajole it - "OK, we will start easy and then see how it goes from there. You are not such a wimp, are you?". And then as the miles go by, this intermittent conversation continues, interspersed with occasional, and almost meditational, blankness.

Then there is that famous high - that ecstatic feeling when everything just clicks into its rightful place and all becomes well with the world. The scenery becomes more beautiful, birds more melodious, lungs stronger and body lighter. And the best part is the unexpectedness of these highs, they may follow one of the most pathetic phases of the run or there may come multiple of these highs sandwiched right between some of the more pathetic phases of the run.

Finally, post run I love that indefinable feeling of lightness in both body and mind; as if while running I have shed some of the unnecessary mental and physical load.

I am sure this is only a start and there are a lot more other things that running will reveal to me. Till then, whenever asked about why do I run, I will be comfortable with the customary explanation - "I don't know. I just like to run."
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