Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why I Run

There is this ongoing question to runners of "Why do you run?". A lot of people out there just think running is crazy, and I completely understand where they are coming from. Up until about a year and a half ago, I thought the same thing. The only reason I would run was because I knew it would help me with baseball. It was a discipline thing for me: if I can go run for 25 minutes, I have control over what I do, which means I can improve at baseball and play at a higher level. I also knew of the health benefits, and that always plays a major roll, for runners at all levels.

But the question still remains: Why do I run?

My interest in running seriously came when I read the book "Ultramarathon Man" by Dean Karnazes. Anyone who knows me has heard of him and his book because it was the sole source that inspired me to go for my first long run of my life; an hour and half around the Mall in downtown DC. He raises this same question in the book and it seems that his answer, while still a little vague to me, is because he was born to move, and, it just flat out makes him a truly happy person. I also think that he can't quite put his figure on exactly why he runs so much, perhaps a form of addiction? I agree that this is the never-ending question for all runners, and it very well could be a major part of the answer: to find the answer.

I have talked to many people about this; hardcore marathoners, untramarathoners, every day joggers and the two-a-weekers, all of them have different answers. The one thing I have found to be a major source of motivation for most of these people, especially the utramarathoners, is some past event in their lives. A traumatic death, alcoholism, drug abuse, physical abuse, getting fired from a great job, losing a husband or a wife, losing a child, obesity. All of these things can be a great kick in the butt to get out there and change your life. And for those who have chosen running as the means to change, have tapped into something absolutely incredible.

Running is a meditation. No matter what happens in each individuals head while he or she runs, it is always in the line of figuring something out. Coming up with new ideas, clearing the mind, learning about yourself, thinking through conflict, fantasying, it is all a process that leaves you a better, more fulfilled person in the end. But it's what got you there in the first place that I am interested in.

I run because of my Mother. This is not how it started, or even the main reason I run every single time I go out there. But deep inside, my Mother is on my mind every time I go out to enjoy the clear air. My mother has cancer, has had it for around ten years now and it has gotten progressively worse ever since. In fact, it has been so bad off and on over the past bunch of years that most doctors have proclaimed she will not live very much longer. But she keeps going. Sticking to her ideals of living and eating balanced and organically, she has dedicated her life to getting to the root of her own self, knowing that the body is an unmeasurable force that can beat any sickness. And when you step back and look at it, she has done just that. She has survived certain death multiple times, she has kept a smile on her face even while the cancer ate away at her bones causing her spine to collapse, and yet she still had the strength to get outside and walk every day. Mind you, the doctors said she should be paralyzed if not dead, and if not that, at the very least, bedridden. But she still cooked for herself, went for walks, played with her grandchild, did more than most healthy Americans claim they have the time or strength to do.

Now, as things have gotten worse and worse, she has needed to resort to certain medications, and staying in bed for most of the day because of how extreme her situation has gotten. Some people now are arguing that clearly the lifestyle she chose for herself has brought her to this point, where she is in pain 24 hours a day and can barely sleep. But, in fact it is her lifestyle that she chose that kept her alive and moving for many years beyond what any health professional could ever have imagined. She has defined strength to me.

I run now because she can't. I run because while I have two feet, working legs, a healthy mind and the physical ability to do anything I want to in the world, I will take full advantage. I push my body to the limits because I want to understand myself the way she understands herself, because no matter what pain I feel, hers is worse, and she fights though it. I have no excuse to not be healthy, I have nothing in the world that can stop me. And every time I think I can not do something, think I can not make it, or that something is too hard, I think of her and know that while my challenges are difficult and should be taken seriously, I can prevail if I truly want to.
She is the strongest person I know, the most dedicated and the most passionate. Because of her I will never stop working to get better, healthier and happier.

Thank You Mom!!

Never Stop, GET FIT

Josh Courage


Debra said...

this piece of writing is incredible. beautifully written and truly inspired...
here is my response to "why i run", which is inapplicable presently as i don't run, except for the frequent burst of desire that turns a quick walk i may be doing without walden on my back, into an all out run, just because i am free to do it, so why the hell not do it. but when i used to run, in the few- times-a-week category, i did it for the breath it gives me. to feel my lungs needing to breathe so deeply and to match my breath with the rhythm of my legs and arms, this was so calming to me and energizing. especially after a long, exhausting run, i felt rejuvenated and inspired to keep moving, or to sleep fantastically well and then move the next day. and i could rely on these qualities to surface every time i ran. it was a form of meditation for me i guess.
thank you for sharing this blog.

DC Figgy said...

I can feel your runner's high reading this...really well done Josh.

I almost hate to give this answer but:
I run because it makes me feel beautiful-I remember what it was like to want to run while my foot was broken and not be able to, and am awed by the dept of human ability to heal, to be whole and healthy and make the lungs fill with air and the legs reach towards something. I run to feel my body-all of my body-working as one system.

The me after the run all sweaty and floppy ponytailed, is also bright eyed, and in my body, and so greatly appreciative of my body.
And that, is really beautiful.