runners of all walks of life are often asked this one question by non-runners, which, while simple and only constructed of a few words, begs a thinking process tantamount to answering an Epistemology course exam question. it's worse for ultrarunners as, to most pedestrian spectators, we're appearing to be half-assedly attempting suicide, or at least slightly deranged.
"why do you run?"
simple, reasonable answers exist for this question.
"I need to cry sometimes."
"homicide is illegal."
"I'm too cheap for laxatives...."
"...then I have to earn my cake."
however, few realize that the wide range of responses applicable to this question actually forms a bigger, more fundamental reason for why you run. the problem is that this reason does not manifest itself through words but only appears as a mild sensation while you're running. henceforth--the more tangible an answer becomes, the harder it is to put it into sentences.
in this eleventy-bajillion part feature, I will attempt to put my spin into the runner's search for meaning. as noted, the resulting draft of a runner's rambling manifesto will be guaranteed to DNF. each post will connect to a previous post in some manner, forming a giant puzzle of indeterminate size and product. however--i hope this sisyphean endeavor will help you find a more purposeful consciousness to your running regime. enjoy.
That was the day I thought it would be fun to do a 15.5K in just over 71 minutes. It was eerie to say the least--a dense fog shrouding most of the pathways, as if the creatures of King's Bridgton, Maine, were about to give us a visit. Naturally there was no one outside--just traffic to keep me company at certain intersections. I work in a skyscraper 36 storeys up, and on normal days I can see my office from anywhere along the route; this was not the case today.
The sheer lack of people on the pathways, combined with a lack of visibility and cars moving monotonously drove me to feel a sort of insignificance only felt bushwhacking in the middle of bumfk nowhere in the mountain--alone and dwarfed by monuments of towering adversity. Feeling off-course on a rather familar course, muscles screaming for oxygen and brain likely suffering from carbon monoxide poisoining--it felt good. Good to be away from the computer answering emails and dicking around in spreadsheets. Good to be not verbally ruining people's self esteem on the phone while simulataneously limiting my career growth.
You need these kind of runs though to remember your humanity, your insignificance to the overarching universe but that you are the center of your own universe, and not someone else's. Yes--significance, or lack thereof, is a mental construct; you will be significant to your friends and your family (right?). But it's selfish to think you're kind of a big deal to the whole world, and these runs where I'm alone with my thoughts remind me that you're never happier when you aim to please everyone.
I'm not saying you should go full-Trump and antagonize the hell out of everyone--you'll definitely never be happy if you do that. I'm also not saying you should go out and run when it's hell on earth and there's nobody to do it with you--but there is an aspect of running that is meditative. There is a part of running that will make you realize that you're a tiny speck of carbon in the whole universe--and that you will forget about how others scrutinize you, criticize you. You will reaffirm a commitment to just live your own story, and not theirs.
Free your mind from these diatribes and pressures, and it will authenticate your soul.