What’s the point of running? Why do we do it and who cares anyway.
In the modern world with our attention consistently challenged is it possible to just go running. Does running need to be an activity we do insofar as that it leads to a future accomplishment.
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately…….and I’m not sure I have the answer.
It’s a question of why we run?
A large part of why most people run is to accomplish goals. A large part of our running is spent training, to prepare for a future race. Running is a meaningful pursuit in life, we love running, however a major part of running is training for races so we can achieve future goals and accomplishments.
The last two years of the pandemic reshaping our lives has changed this to a degree. Without races on the immediate calendar runners have needed different motivations to keep running. Some have spent less time running, some have stopped altogether. Some have decided to knuckle down and train hard, knowing they will find improvement when races do show up.
Now that races have started again, we see large fields and races selling out quickly. Its fantastic that the running community can embrace this again. We all want to race, after all this is how we measure the effort spent in being a runner.
The question remains for me though. Can we just go running because we love running or does it have to tie to a future goal?
Is the purpose of running to race and achieve goals or can the purpose of running just be running?
In my twenty plus years of running the driving force for my running has been to compete in races. While I believe I have fostered a love of running as well as anyone, my driving force is competing in races and challenging myself to accomplish arbitrary goals set by myself. This has led a long and satisfying time in the sport.
But what would have happened if I just ran for running. Would I love running more if I never tried to accomplish a goal and ran purely and solely for the purpose of a love of running. Does this mean I should never race? Or if I did race should I be never disappointed with the outcome?
It is very difficult in the modern world to disconnect from running enough to ever know the answer to these questions. With the increase in technology, GPS watches and logging running data online it is increasingly difficult to separate yourself from the data and a purpose to improve yourself as a runner.
When I ran my first marathon in 2001, I ran with a simple watch with stopwatch function. I’d look at my watch at every kilometre marker and do a mathematical equation in my head to work out my most recent lap split and average pace per/km. Maybe the answer is to become a technology luddite and return to these days. Only that back then, like now I still cared about my performance and wanted to improve. We just didn’t have the ease of ways to measure and track performance.
The truth is trying to improve myself as a runner has been a pursuit of mine for as long as I’ve been running. And this is still true, while the races I run has changed somewhat and the ways we monitor and measure improvement have changed a lot.
Is distraction another puzzle piece in the search for running mindfulness? While we’ve established that technology plays its part and removing it doesn’t necessarily lead to a greater connection to running. However, during the run distractions can affect our connection to running.
There is definitely a case for using a minimum of technology during your run. Constantly monitoring pace and other metrics mounted on your wrist is a distraction and limits how much you can become mindful and connected to your running. While metrics can be important when you are pushing pace in workouts, equally using easier aerobic runs to connect to your running and not focus on your watch is a good way to focus on yourself.
The other part of technology is solitude. If you love running for the solitude, can you really be at one with yourself if you are monitoring pace or listening to music or podcasts while you run. Take some time to be at peace with yourself and devoid of these distractions.
Why am I even barking up this tree? Does it really signal an unhealthy relationship or lack of purity if you run to race and want to get better and hopefully beat a few people in the name of competition? Probably not, and who cares if it does anyway.
I’m setting myself a ‘Mindful March’ running challenge. Meaning I’ll attempt to spend March further connected to running and not focus on training progress.
No workouts – aerobic running only*
Disconnect from the watch – Time of day only on watch during runs
No headphones – Give me the solitude
*I do have a scheduled race in March – So I’ll be laying it down there, otherwise aerobic only.
Maybe I’ll get more joy out of running if I just run.
Maybe I’ll get better at running if I just go running.
Maybe I’ll reach a deeper solitude if I don’t measure and seek improvement.
Maybe I’ll connect further to my running if my running connects to me.
Maybe I won’t either and I’ll just continue to run for the love of running and the challenge of chasing my goals.