I recently moved offices at work, albeit temporarily while a colleague is on maternity leave for the year. This meant I got to upgrade from an internal office to an external one (YAY!) with a beautiful and very distracting view of the harbor. In doing so, I had a big tidy up, and found a post it note that I had written to myself some months prior.
I wrote this note the day after I attended the Tarawera info night on 17 June 2015. One of the speakers, I believe it was the Tarawera founder, Paul Charteris, told us to think about that very question: Why do you run?
Why do I do this?
Because logically, why do we put ourselves through physical exercise, exert energy, put strain on our muscles and joints, take time away from our families, spend money on an event where we essentially pay to put ourselves through hell? Have I sold it?
Because really, there are so many reasons to run, that you forget about the above, about the pain, the hard times. If you run, you don’t think of any of the obstacles or the terrible things that may come with running.There are so many reasons out there: stress release, getting out and enjoying nature, to explore new places, to get a tan, to look good, to exert built up energy, to collect medals and tshirts from events, so that you can eat cake, drink beer and not feel bad, because it is a chance to catch up with friends, for the competitive aspect – there are so many reasons, and all of those apply to me in one way or the other.
For me, there are so many reasons why I run. But when I truly thought about it – why I have the urge to run, versus why I run when training for an event – it is the thrill, the achievement, the internal challenge and struggle against the little voice in your head saying no, and that great moment in life when you overcome that challenge, you surprise yourself and carry on. That moment when you realize that two weeks, two months or two years ago, your body and your mind could not do what it just did. Those moments, running faster, running further, overcoming a tough time or a dark moment, running a familiar course with more ease than normal – that is what it is all about.
To me, running is empowering. If you are in the zone mentally, with the right music to listen to, perfect weather, a beautiful day, and you are in the zone physically, where you feel good before, after and during your run, you can get to a point where you are on cloud nine, you smile, you laugh, you feel like you are a machine. You feel powerful, inspiring, energized, and like you can do anything in the world. I’ve had a number of these moments, where I am out running and feel unstoppable. Like the world is my oyster and I can tackle whatever it throws me.
That is what was behind the post it note. And that is what I tried to capture in so few words. And funnily enough, it really helped me to actually formulate those reasons in writing. To put it down on paper, to look at it and think ‘huh’. It helped put running, my passions and goals in perspective, and because I wrote it down, that passion and reason for running has stayed with me throughout my training for Tarawera. It helped me through the dark times, it helped me continue to believe in myself, it helped me go running when it was raining or when I was tired, because I had to. I couldn’t give up – my post it note wouldn’t let me.
And it is so fitting that I find it now, with four sleeps to go until Tarawera. Essentially, that info night convinced me that I wanted to run an ultra marathon. I wanted to do Tarawera, it belonged to me. I wrote that note, and that made it even more concrete: I could do it. And now, half a year later, and after three months of intensive ultra-specific training (and 375km of running in those three months!) I am about to finally run that event. And those words and the passion behind them have stuck with me so strongly. Even more so this final week, excited and nervous, waiting impatiently for the big day to come round.
And recently, I have found new reasons to run, and to run the way I do. To sacrifice parts of my personal life to work towards an ultra marathon, to make changes to my life in terms of diet, work, socializing, drinking, exercise – because I have discovered how powerful your own determination, your own goals and your own love to run can be to others. Inspiring others through a simple act of just getting out there and running. Doing what you always do, but for a bigger cause, on a larger scale.
My first marathon, I felt the pressure to run for others, not just for myself. I was so scared and nervous the morning of the race that I became upset and worried that I couldn’t do it, I doubted myself and my abilities. My Mom told me that I could pull out if I wanted to, or walk if it got too hard. My response? “But others expect me to do it! To run it all! To do well!” That is not the right response. You can’t run for others. You should never have external pressures on your performance. Because running should be a passion, you should have internal reasons for doing it. You may have an audience, and at times you may want to beat others or impress others. But you should always be competing against yourself, not anyone else.
In saying that, your running can inspire others. I have received such positive support from friends, family and colleagues during my training. I have received messages from old friends that I haven’t spoken to in years, who have been following my blog posts and are “blown away” by what I am doing, wishing me luck. I also have close friends who are now challenging themselves to do something they never would otherwise, like a half marathon. So thank you to everyone for reading, for supporting me along the way, and for being part of my journey. The love and support help so much, as do the messages of support, and the comments that I myself have inspired you. It is overwhelming, and it helps make the struggle worth it.
And to those who do run, or have any form of passion – remember why you started it in the first place. Get back to those roots, because you never know what that might lead to.