Monday, July 20, 2015

Why Do I Run?

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn't matter whether you're the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.” 

Now that I have been running for exactly a year, I think it's a good time to try justify a few questions which has always clouded my mind. - Why do I run? Why do I have to put myself through a 3-4 hour long suffering? What do I get out of it?

I don't have direct answers to any of these questions. Truth is a I enjoy having pizzas and beer with friends much more than I enjoy running. I always loved sports growing up but hated running. Running without a purpose disgusted me, and it was just something that had to be got over with everyday, so that I could start playing as soon as possible. Nevertheless, having run 1523 Kilometers for the past year, I think I have had plenty of time to ponder over these questions.

Why do I run?

We as human beings always look for ways to validate ourselves in this world. Even if my life is going absolutely nowhere, after a three hour run, I tell myself, I am in control of this, so maybe I can control other things in life too. Believe it or not, we are all control freaks, to varying degrees. Does that help in life? Mostly no, you can only control so much in life. But for those fifteen minutes when your are warming down, dripping with sweat,you feel you have it in you to make it through. A decent food habit and fitness are bonus cards which come with it. It's a fair trade off.

What when we figure things out in life? I don't think people ever reach a stage where they figure things out totally, unless of course you are a Gautam Buddha. It's a fact of life you have to become friends with. Running gives me strength. Not strength to my calves or quadriceps, but to my soul.

Why the suffering?

We get our answers through suffering. I don't introspect when I am happy. The last five miles in a three hour long run, when your lungs scream for air, joints are creaky, that is when you start getting different perspectives. At that point, you can almost think of anything else than the voice inside you that urges you to quit. Sometimes, we don't want to accept truths in life and we look for all biased reasons to prove ourselves correct. Suffering cuts straight through that.

What do I get out of it?

Nothing. And that is the whole point. Life is not profit and loss statement. You have to do something which gives you nothing in return. No long distance runner runs to stay fit. You could do much less and live out your life healthily. You put on your running shoes, watch the overcast sky, impeding rain, and you know its going to be a thankless suffering for the next two hours. Without caring about anything, you set off. There is strange sense of freedom in that.

“There's something so universal about that sensation, the way running unites our two most primal impulses: fear and pleasure. We run when we're scared, we run when we're ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time.”