I sometimes wonder why I even bother running.

Last Saturday night, after returning to bed from changing a dirty diaper around 1:00 AM, I picked up my phone — an unfortunate habit since the Eliza arrived. The next hour took me down a rabbit-hole of news regarding the refugee and travel ban, and I quickly became overwhelmed with thoughts of what, if anything, I do really matters.

My work, goals, and hobbies all center around running. And what’s the point? 

After all, every minute, every mile on the trail means I’m not spending time with my family, helping others, or doing something more productive for our collective futures.

It’s something I’ve recently felt a lot of guilt over.

But then, as I set down my phone and began to fade into sleep, I remembered running through the golden, crisp leaves last fall.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the determination I’ve felt throughout the final miles of races, when my body screamed to stop.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the stillness of the many summer sunrises.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the joy I felt playing outside with friends.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

And the blinding glow from stunning winter snows.

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

I hear runners justify their runs because it makes them better people when they’re not running. I’ve done that many times myself.

But the truth is, I run for me first. I run because I love it. Because it gives me peace, happiness, and escape, and because it challenges me in a way that I find thrilling.

Are there more productive things to do? Probably. But when I’m out there on the dirt, it’s running that brings me joy.

And that’s the point.

If it makes me a better husband, father, or human being in return, awesome. I’ll certainly take it. And I’ll always make time for other important activities.

But — as much as I’d like to say otherwise — when my pre-dawn alarm wakes me up to run, it’s only me that I’m getting out of bed for.

And as selfish as it may sound all typed out, that’s all I need.

Photos in this post were taken as part of my year of daily Instagram shots, an attempt at capturing and sharing a precious moment each day of 2016. Learn more here.


A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

A photo posted by Doug H (@rockcreekrunner) on

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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3 thoughts on “In Defense of Being Selfish (A Photo Essay About Running)

  1. As a wife, mother of 3 and with a full time job I loved this article – it really hit the spot. Plus the photos were awesome! Thank you!

  2. Doug, this is an awesome post. Julie Piatt, Rich Roll’s wife, always says there’s a difference in being self-ish and self-full. I think activities like this that fill you up and give you peace could certainly be considered self-full.

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