Why You Should Stop Rationalizing Running

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.


Why You’re Not an Elite (Yet)

Ultra Marathons are Bad for my Heart? I Don’t Give a Shit

7 Lies You Believe About Ultra Marathons

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!

5 responses

  1. I agree with most of what you are saying here but I think it is ok to ask why sometimes. Maybe I’m trying to understand something new that sounds interesting and exciting – and I want to know why/how someone got to that point so I can decide if maybe I can do it too – if I want to do it too.

    I do agree tho that there is no need to rationalize exercise or physical activities. I don’t ask why because I wan’t people to prove to me they have a good enough reason, I just like understanding people’s motiviation – my usual response is “because I enjoy it and because I sit for 9 hours a day at work and I need to MOVE!”

    Years ago there was no need for planned “exercise” – working and commuting were enough before desk jobs and cars took over our lives. We moved enough then and it was good for us – mentally, physically, and spiritually… that is why we should run, exercise, MOVE… not because we want to be a certain weight or size but because it is good and natural and lacking in today’s society. Maybe reminding people of that is a good enough answer to “why” and will get them thinking and hopefully moving too!

  2. Awesome Vanessa! Most people that ask why, aren’t going to accept any reason you give them anyways – mostly they’re asking because they couldn’t imagine doing it themselves.

    BUT, I think that even if they’re not open to it, a seed is planted that will grow in their minds – that there is more out there than what they can think of…

    maybe it will get them to try something new for themselves – to get outside their own paradigm! :)

    maybe I’m talking from experience…

    • I’ve only finished one, attempted another and didn’t finish, and I’m registered for two more this year. I did the 120-mile Transrockies stage race, but that was over 6 days. I ran my first ultra (50K) only a year ago, then jumped right to the 100 miler … I’m an ultra newbie but fell in love with the 100 right away :)

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