There’s a good reason why most people avoid running.

A few, actually:

It’s hard: Running takes a lot of work. To build up endurance and speed is not only a struggle, but requires patience.

It’s uncomfortable: Even casual running means getting out in the heat, cold, and rain. It means fighting through tired legs, sore feet, and blisters.

It’s dangerous: We’ve all heard the statistic that 65% of runners get injured each year, and horror stories of knee or back injuries that last a lifetime. Trail and ultrarunners also have to deal with safety issues on the trail, major fatigue, and life threatening situations.

It’s selfish: Running requires you be away from family, friends, obligations, and duties around the house. As you train for longer races, that time away only increases. A sacrifice not just for you, but for those who are taking care of the things you are leaving behind.

It’s expensive: One might think that something as simple as running would be cheap, but the shoes, races, gadgets, and fancy clothes add up.

It’s scary: Becoming a runner means setting a goal. Maybe it’s for your health, maybe it’s to achieve something that was once unimaginable. Putting yourself out there will fill you with fear.

But as anyone who runs knows, there’s more to the story than that…

When Things Go Wrong

A few weeks ago, Dave Mackey, one of the top and most well-respected trail runners in the world, suffered a devastating fall. While out running a regular route near his house, he stepped on a rock that gave way. The fall sent him over the edge of a scramble, where a 150 pound rock landed on his leg.

Ultimately it shattered his tibia and fibula bones, and required a dramatic rescue effort to get him off the mountain.

Throughout the blogosphere and on social media, runners from all over the world are sharing their stories about what a stand-up guy and ambassador Dave is for the sport.

But it’s a tragic reminder of how quickly things can change for us as runners.

I don’t know Dave, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable even guessing what his motivations are as a runner. But I do know there’s a reason why he runs. Be it community, personal growth, or anything in between, he runs with a purpose. Dave knows the risks. He knows the sacrifices.

And he still runs.

Why You Run

Earlier this week I sent out a tweet asking why you run, and several of you responded. The answers were diverse, personal, and beautiful.

In fact, there were so many good ones I included many more than I had planned.

Here’s what some of you said:


The Importance of Understanding Why

Over the past few weeks, as I limped around reflecting back on the Black Mountain Monster, looking forward to what’s next and reading about Dave, I couldn’t help but ask myself “Why”?

Why do this to myself?

Why do it my wife?

Why do it to my body?

An important stage of goal setting is understanding the “Why.” Here’s a quote from an interview I did with Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete for the Trail Runner’s System on this topic:

You can chase all these different things, all these different prizes, but if you don’t figure out what it is you want, why you want it, or why it will bring you fulfillment, then when you achieve the goal, all you’ll do is look for the next thing. You’ll constantly be chasing satisfaction.

Getting clear and connected on the ‘why’ is just as important as doing it to begin with.

Getting clear on the why not only gives your goal context, but it gives it meaning. It gives you a reason to push when things get hard. To fight the fears, the discomfort, the dangers.

When everything and everyone is telling you to quit, it gives you a reason not to.

And when I’m aimlessly wandering around trying to figure out what’s next, it gives me motivation to figure it out.

Your Reason is Yours Alone

I run because it makes me a better person. Because every setback makes me stronger. Because it forces me to be patient, to get outside, and to explore. I run because it’s fun, and because I fear missing out on the earth’s beauty.

I run because I can, and because my body aches for the next adventure.

Why I run only matters to one person. Me.

And why Dave Mackey will (or won’t) fight his way back to running again only matters to him.

I hate it when a non-runner asks me why I run endurance races.

As runners, we feel a pressure to justify our reason in a way that others will understand. In a way that they can accept and or relate to in their minds.

It shouldn’t be like that. Your reason is yours alone.

But you do have to find it.

You have to write it down, remind yourself of it regularly, and most importantly, you need to believe in it.

Do you believe in your why?

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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6 thoughts on “Why Do You Run? (And Why That Question Is Important)

  1. I’m going through a big life change (recently divorced). I am looking at everything I do and deciding to “keep or toss.” I make choices that support my well-being. I run because it challenges me – it’s all about seeing what I can do. It’s not about anyone else. Plus, I see, smell, hear and feel nature and the beauty of the earth. Without question, I will “keep” running. BTW, its fun!

    1. Glad to hear you’re going to “keep” running! I know it’s one thing I can always count on. Thanks for sharing, Dorothy! Don’t you just leave experiencing nature through a run?

  2. Because I feel free. For a long time I was under active and had no idea it could be not painful or embarrassing. But now I get time to myself (and I run for my kids too), alone with my thoughts. And I feel free.

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