Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Do I Run? (part 2)

This entry will probably sound like a stream of thoughts rather than a coherent post, but here goes...

Years ago, I posted this poem by Ed Cunningham because I thought it was funny.

A taste:


I also posted this entry about how running improves life.  And I know it has.  I've bonded with people over it, overcome my mental roadblocks with it, and I've been able to travel because of it.  I even started wearing contact lenses because of it.

Over the years, my feelings toward this sport of choice have been extremely variable.  I've beaten myself up, mentally of course, for not doing as well as I'd like during races.  And then there were moments when I'd be up late at night, looking for a race that would fit into my schedule.  Even during graduate school, I knew that I could not give up training and racing.  It has been a permanent fixture in my life since the day my sister convinced me to sign up for my first half-marathon after I vowed to run a marathon within a year.

That was nearly six years, 10 marathons, and 21 half-marathons ago.  Not like I care about those numbers because they show dedication over anyone else, but they do strike me because I always felt that if I did this number of races, I'd be skilled at it.

But what does "skilled" mean?  Okay, so I haven't broken 1:50 in the half-marathon or 4:15 in the full.  And if I did, would I turn the dial to 1:45 and 4:00... 3:45... BQ?  Can I even do that, because I'm pretty stocky even at my best weights and have a bunion that's getting so bad that it's screwing with the alignment of my leg?  Even if I trained and got a cramp mid-race?  Is there a certain level I need to reach to legitimize myself in this hobby of mine?


For all intensive purposes, running has been a hobby.  Hobbies are supplemental to normal activities; they do not dominate normal activities.  You don't need to be "good at" a hobby in order to enjoy it.  And you are NOT defined by your hobbies.  I have other hobbies... does anyone know what they are???

Lately, this hobby of mine is becoming less and less desirable.  I've done the break-taking thing a few times, and it hasn't been enough.  Races spike my desire temporarily, but if we could just race and be inactive in between them, I think we'd be in trouble.  Unfortunately, being the deal-monger I am, I sign up for races farrrrrr in advance and hope that I'll be "into it" and trained by the time the race date arrives.  I still go on short runs during the week because: 1) I feel that I need to maintain some sort of base mileage before my legs fall apart during races, 2) I need some kind of cardiovascular activity, and the gym is out of the picture for now, and 3) it's become a habit.

Running as a habit is not a bad thing, as it makes keeping a healthy lifestyle very easy when you otherwise want to just lay on the couch all day.  However, it does remove the passion from it.  And wouldn't I be putting more effort into my training if I had more passion?

Why do I run?  Why don't I do other things to keep me fit and not torture myself and my wallet, signing up for these races?  Well, I guess running is accessible....  though seems like everyone and their moms (literally) took up these sorts of races, and bandwagons are such a turn-off.  Not to sound like a jerk, but I don't like the fact that people feel like they have to run because everyone else is.  There are other (and better!) ways of staying in shape!!!

I don't know what the future holds for me.  I am signed up for LA Marathon (will be my fifth) but am not sure if I will sign up for another marathon this year or next... or perhaps training for/doing three per year was too many.  Yet I know when "The Ukrainian" signs up for his 11th marathon, I will consider it because I don't want him to surpass my total (he's one behind) and because I'm com-petty-tive.

In the meantime, I have a ton of half-marathons on the calendar for the year.  Maybe they will give me a kick in the pants; I don't know.  For now, even though the half-marathon training schedules are fairly tame compared to marathon ones, I can't seem to yank the six-mile training runs out of my behind before/after work or wake up and actually put effort into a 10-miler on the weekend.  Nope, I'd rather sleep or go bathe my parents' unruly dog.  So it seems I like these races yet don't want to train more than a few miles??  Something's not right.

In spite of this, I don't think I will ever quit running.  Until I can't, anyway.

And in spite of my lack of credentials to help other runners since I'm so half-@$$ed about my training, I hope that people will still read this blog and be able to relate to my struggle to race without being immortal and without needing to be better than someone else, even if that someone is your past self.

Carlsbad Half-Marathon, 2008


  1. Love this! Especially the hobby perspective.

  2. I started running for stress relief when I was in grad school and I've been hooked ever since!

  3. Great post! I feel exactly the same way. Ran 2 fulls last year with what I consider lousy times, and have big plans for this year as well. Actually, the big plans were made last October, but do you think I've had more than a few 30 minute runs? Still struggling as well to figure what this is all about (motivation, that is), but you put it all out there in your post. I really like your "Hobby" idea. Certainly takes the pressure off.

  4. @Will -- I'm glad someone else is doing the 30-minute runs with me! Hope you find your motivation!

  5. I am going through this exact situation currently. Running on the roads is just so *meh* these days.