Why You Should Stop Rationalizing Running

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Why we run has been the topic of countless running articles, blog posts, and general musings. When I first started running, I found the question kind of strange. Nobody asks why people get on ellipticals? Why they swim? Why they bike to the park?

Why should running be any different?

As I started getting into ultra running and especially when I trained for and ran my first 100 miler, the question made more sense. It was easier to see why people would wonder.

With the increase of mileage and the obsession with harsher terrain and more brutal climbs, the running difficulty shot up and the perceived rewards from a non-runner’s perspective were few:

  • There was no longer a significant weight loss benefit.
  • The difficulty level wasn’t fun or pleasant.
  • The physical repercussions like lost toenails and blisters look excruciating.
  • The time commitment was extreme.
  • The risk of injury was high.

And yet I was still reluctant to answer the question of WHY. Because the truth is, I didn’t really know why. And I still haven’t found a logical answer.

I actually believe that there is NO good reason for running 100 miles. But I also believe that I don’t need one.

I love the distance. I love training for and running 100s. And that is enough. I don’t need to lose weight from it and I don’t need to earn money from it. I just need to run.

We live in a world now where everything requires a purpose and an explanation, otherwise it’s useless. Exercise must have a direct benefit in order to be worth our time. Not surprisingly, we are more sickly and sedentary than ever.

Instead of going outside, we sit around and reason that there is not enough of a physical or financial benefit in ultra running. But I believe ultra running is more of an art, not a job.

Nobody asks:

  • Why we go to a ballet
  • Why we listen to an orchestra
  • Why we visit art galleries
  • Why we appreciate music

Or for that matter:

  • Why go to a movie on opening night?
  • Why watch a sunrise?
  • Why pet a puppy?

There is no logic or reason behind these things, but they feed our souls. They make us human.

And ultra running makes me human. It’s the one thing I don’t need to explain. And I don’t think I should be asked.

As a friend once told me, we need people to run 100 miles just as we need people who can sing above an orchestra, or who can paint a masterpiece. It proves to us the wonder and versatility of humanity, and reminds us that as a species we are capable of extraordinary feats.

And so we need an army of runners who can move swiftly with no purpose.
Who seek out trails that lead to nowhere.
Who scale mountains just to see the other side.

More importantly, we need things in our lives that we don’t have to rationalize. Things we can just love recklessly. And we need to stop asking why.

Stop demanding to know why people run. Stop asking what their weight goals are. Stop wondering what charity they’re raising money for. And just accept running for what it is: a simple act that makes people happy.

And yes, ultra running is senseless and crazy. That’s sort of the point.

The Beauty of the Irrational from The African Attachment on Vimeo.

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The above was an excerpt of the first draft of my book. The book contains anecdotes and stories about the sport of ultra running, and how it relates to life. I haven’t picked a title yet, but this is the section I wrote this morning. Enjoy!