Menu ≡ ╳
To the non-runner the incessant need to run, to train, to run some more and to race must seem akin to madness. A form of self harm or masochism that is hard to understand to the more leisurely observer.
The truth is, we live in a world of convenience induced laziness. A time where everything we want, need or think we need is at our fingertips The human brain, as we evolved into Homo Sapiens, developed a talent for efficiency. As Neolithic humans we needed to expend a large amount of energy obtaining… more energy. To fit this daily endeavour, our bodies developed into the perfect long-distance hunting machine; we couldn’t out-sprint our prey but we evolved the ability to persist in the chase, to out-last our prey until, worn out, it became dinner. Our bodies evolved to run. We are literally made for running with our efficient, bi-pedal gait, powerful Achilles’ tendons and in-built cooling system (sweating). Mentally, we were instructed by our glucose dependant brain to consume energy whenever the opportunity arose and to save that energy when we could.
Bring these traits forward 50,000 years to the modern era where, in developed countries, we have a quantity of food available that is only limited by how much money we have to spend on it. Couple this with the fact that we now have vehicles to take us wherever we need to go, a world where many people can travel from their home, to another destination and back again without walking further than their drive way. Some kids are even beginning to trundle along pavements on so-called hover boards…
Life now is so infuriatingly, greedily, lazily comfortable for us humans in the developed world (obv a generalism, not for everyone). Yet it’s still our evolved instinct to consume the maximum calories we can, when we can and not waste them.
So why do we run? To be human. To use our bodies as they were designed to be used! To burn those calories that we’ve so cleverly and prudently obtained for survival.
Quite often we must fight our brains – that sub-conscious urge to stay at home and do nothing, conserve energy. But of course we have nothing to conserve energy for, other than the run… The chase, the hunt. So out we must go!
And it feels soooo GOOD after a run! An unrivalled sense of satisfaction. A feeling so great that we’ll endure miles of discomfort (easy run) or pain (race) to achieve it. A physiological incentive – the runner’s high. Who’s ever said, “I really regret that run”? No one (other than the guy who tripped and fell down a sinkhole whilst running). There’s a certain pace, different for different people, where the brain slips into an almost meditative state; running just enough to have to focus, but not so hard that you’re struggling.
Interesting and perhaps uniquely with running, the rewards are greater the newer you are to it. The greatest sense of achievement comes from that first run around the block, lasting for 1 mile, then 2, then 3. Trying and completing parkrun, finishing parkrun in under 30mins, 29mins, 28…
Then it gets harder to close the gap on those goals and race times that dropped like lead weights initially, become incrementally more difficult to improve. But it’s the hope that we can go even slightly faster or longer and the knowledge that working harder in training will achieve this, that fuels the pain/pleasure cycle.
In this respect, running is the greatest metaphor there is for life; you get out what you put in. Hardwork, commitment, willpower all combine to give tangible, measurable results.