Maybe because it’s been minus a hundred around here a lot lately, but I’m fantasizing about running outside. And thinking about motivation.
I remember talking to one of my neighbours a couple of years ago out on our street after my husband and I returned from a 25-km trail run. It was a late spring afternoon. We’d taken the afternoon off work to go to the mountains to run, getting back just in time to pick the girls up from school. It was the last long training run before the Sinister 7 relay, and we’d pushed ourselves hard before the taper.
We pulled into our driveway and piled out of the van onto our cul-de-sac, finding other neighbourhood kids and parents out enjoying the sunshine. We wandered into the street to join the conversation, as we often do. I love that about our cul-de-sac…that it becomes a playground/meeting ground on warm, sunny evenings.
I was sweaty, dirty and walking a little gingerly.
My neighbor asked me if I was alright.
I laughed and mentioned what we’d just done.
A look of concern/confusion flashed across her face.
“Why would you do that?” she asked, in all seriousness and without a trace of malice.
I couldn’t answer the question. I couldn’t explain it.
But I loved the question. I still love the question.
Why does anybody do anything, when it comes to fitness or sports?
Right now, all I know this…
To move is to feel alive.
That still doesn’t explain why one runs 25-km rather than 5-km. Or why someone runs 50-km rather than 25-km. Why someone climbs ice walls. Or takes Zumba. Or does Insanity. Or lifts bar bells. Or swims the English Channel. Or does yoga. Or whatever.
I’m pretty sure though it’s not all about weight-loss or making your jeans fit — as the women’s fitness magazines might have you believe. Though on some days, in some moments, it can be (I have those moments too). But those aesthetic things simply aren’t meaningful enough to last. The desire to move is about how it makes you feel, not how you look. How you feel in your bones. In your own skin. In your bloodstream. Deep in the hormonal recess of your brain. You know, how you feel feel.
I think we need a whole new narrative behind “why”.
So this is what I currently think.
You run, or jump, or swim or dance because you can.
Because you were born to move. And to play.
Because of the chain reaction of chemicals in your brain that gets addicting.
Because it forces you to the present and to feel.
And in some respects to suffer. Perhaps life isn’t meant to be a glazed pursuit of comfort, labour-saving devices, and temperature controlled space. Maybe we are wired to seek a more varied experience. To hang in that balance – that ever-moving teeter-totter – between pleasure and pain, rest and work. We want to feel protected, rested, quiet, at leisure…for a while. But then, we get antsy (because we haven’t been required to go out and chop fire wood or gather plants for dinner), we seek moments of…well…pow!
I heard a friend say once that he doesn’t have to go off to war, so he puts on his waffle-soled, high-comfort running shoes and goes out and runs marathons. Same instinct.
In planning for their next 24-hour bike race, one of my husband’s teammates said – when they were contemplating going as a 5 person-team, rather than a 4 person team: “But will we suffer enough?” Same instinct.
So why would I, why would you, do that? Bring on a new narrative. But I leave you with the words of the great explorer George Mallory: