I’ve never considered myself the Bruce Springsteen of running – I wasn’t Born to Run.
In fact, the first time Wouna and I gave in to a nagging runner friend and joined her for a 5km fun run I was already past 30. And little kids of between 3 and 5 ran the shit out of me.
Maybe it was the shock of realising we weren’t able to run continuously for more than 2km, or the fact that kids that scarcely reached my knees easily ran away from us, but from that day we did our best to get better at the running game. Running together, we persevered, eventually managing our first 10km race, then a 21, then a 32, and then the wheels came off – the classic story of injury from over-use. We rested, cut back, tried again, this time getting all the way to completing a marathon at a pretty decent 6min/km pace. The sky was the limit, so we did more marathons, and quickly progressed to our first ultra – the scenic Two Oceans marathon in Cape Town. After this came injury again, followed by cut-back and rest, slow build up, eventually another marathon, and so forth, until now, about 10 years later, I would contend that we’ve spent enough of the past decade on the road (or on the trail) to be able to refer to ourselves as runners.
Yet, even now, running is still not a non-negotiable activity in my daily life. I don’t get up at 5:00 every day, rain or shine, and hit the road for my daily 8km running fix. In fact, I still have to work hard every day to convince myself that I should hit the road, that I’ll feel better after the run (which I do, without exception, but still…). And I don’t even want to talk about when the weather’s bad, or if I had a glass too much wine the previous night! I still have huge gaps every so often in my running log, where I drop out completely and go without running for months.
I’m curious what it would take to get me to that point where running is no longer an option, but a compulsion. What is the drug I need to become a real can’t-go-without-it-for-a-single-day running addict?
Could it be routine? Being self-employed, with no fixed daily routine, means I have to make a conscious decision that it’s “time to run”. If your day is rigidly structured, and you know 5:00 – 5:45 is your running slot, the battle must be halfway won. On the other hand, the luxury of a flexible schedule should have the advantage that, if its raining at 8:00, you can always still go running at 15:00. So lack of routine can’t be an excuse.
Could it be motivation? I’m not chasing some mythical sub-40 minute 10km race. And I’m not seriously trying to lose weight (although that won’t be a bad thing). Many committed runners I know have stories to tell as to why they run – loss of a partner, running for a cause, overcoming a (different) addiction, a serious health scare… I, on the other hand, pretty much run because I like it, and (to be honest) to make sure that I’m never beaten by a 3-year old again.
Basically, when I think about what drives me to run, its quite simply the need to know that I can do it. To know that, if your car breaks down 10kms from home, you’re not completely screwed – you can actually make it home. To know that, if a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes along to participate in some physical challenge (be it a scenic trail run, or a chance to climb a mountain, or to walk 800km because, over a bottle of wine, you thought it was a cool idea…) you can do it, because you’re a runner, and you know that, in your own special way, you are capable of amazing achievements.
As the running joke goes – Chuck Norris never ran a marathon. That is why I run. It may not get me out on the road every day, but it ensures that, despite bad days and lay-offs, in my head I will always be a runner.
Because just maybe… tramps like us, baby we were born to run.