Today’s post will differ quite a bit to my previous ones. While I enjoy discussing the current state of affairs in the fascinating world of data management, I would like to take the opportunity to write a very personal piece. So very personal in fact, that I have hesitated a long time to publish it. To put things into context, at this instant in time in my life, I strive to be a very logical person. One of things I loathe the most in this world is the proportion of emotion driven decisions that occur. It’s been a soap box of mine for quite a while now, upon which I stand and promote logic and critical thinking, comfortably sitting (or I suppose in this case, standing) in my eco-chamber of like minded skeptics. That being said, there are really only two domains in my life for which I do not strive to apply that very rational framework and let my emotions take the best of me: my family, and running (obviously to a greater extent with regard to my family, I am not a monster). Here is the thing about very emotional topics: I do not feel comfortable talking about them, which is why I very so seldom share anything about my love for my family; and that’s not going to start in this blog post either, let me makes things clear. No, today, I’m going to talk about my relationship with running. Once, then I will go back to not talking about it, except on rare occasions and with selected people.

I do not run to be healthy

Before I start pouring my logorrhea of deeply intimate and potentially completely uninteresting facts about the place that running has in my life, let me do a little bit of house cleaning. Yes, exercise is good for you. The list of benefits is never ending, from better longevity, easier weight management, improved cognitive functions, stress reduction and much more. This is NOT the running I’m going to talk about here. As a by product of running I may be more healthy, but that’s really not the goal or the attitude I have towards running. I don’t need an end goal to run. I run because this is one of the things I love the most in life.

I am in a relationship with running

Indeed, while I recognize that I’m still a “new” runner, having only started seriously about 5 years ago, I can tell you that running is part of my life. As soon as I started, I sincerely fell in love with it. I’m choosing the world love carefully, meaning that I am emotionally involved with running. The joy and pain I feel for getting the opportunity to spend time running, not even running itself, just the idea that I can go on a run are extremely potent for me. To give you a recent example, about a week ago, I got a free bib to run a race. The day of the race, while warming up, I realized I was sick, something completely out of my control. In any other domain, things that I cannot control do not affect me greatly. But that day, as I realized I wasn’t going to be able to run hard, and it made more sense for me not to race, I sat down behind a tree and cried. In hindsight, this attitude is completely disproportionate to the situation. The bib was free, I signed up less than a week in advance, I did nor really prepared for the race, I could not control being sick or not, my family still loves me, the sun is going to rise tomorrow, etc. I realize that this type of emotional response is completely alienating to my entourage, from people who don’t care about my last workout splits to my wife having to deal with my training schedule and nervous breakdowns. However, this relationship I am in is not unhealthy, not like it was when I started. I know when to take time off. Reluctantly sure, but I take it nonetheless. I even questioned the very nature of it, to see if the emotions I feel about running are not a coping mechanism for underlying deeper issues, but I ultimately arrived at the conclusion that it isn’t. I stepped into despair from the pit of dread, and as described by Kierkegaard I emerged trying to know myself. And the person that I am is a very lucky man, who gets to really be passionate about running. If running is taken away from me, it would really suck, but I would still be me.

I am not a social runner

Don’t think for a minute that I consider my case exceptional in any way. I’m sure people feel very passionate about many things, running included. Here is one thing that I am not though: a social runner. The community of runners is perhaps one of the most amazing things I get to witness on a regular basis. The camaraderie and motivation that groups offer for people that are just starting out to people that are constantly striving to better themselves are amazing, and reach far beyond the act of running itself. Running promotes charity, inclusiveness, and self worth. When you run in a group, you are always welcome, no matter where you come from, how fast you’re going, how long you’ve been running or if you will ever go and run with this group again. It took me a while to admit this but I, however, have very little need for belonging to a group. Note that this is how I currently feel, and that it may be subject to change in the future, but I think it is a mature position that I hold, and the reason why I think it is fair for me to write it black on white. I enjoy running with people I like (and most of the people I meet while running I like), but I do not look for being part of a community (running group or beyond). I do not seek out runners to go out for a run. I do not feel like waving a flag saying to the world that I am a runner. I do not wear running clothes outside of a running-related event. I do not post on a regular basis on running groups. I do not like to talk about running all the time, while I’m running. I enjoy a little bit of it, but only a little. I confess that I have unfollowed many groups and friends that constantly posts about running on Facebook. And I think that I figured out why. First, I have psychopathic tendencies and therefore have never really felt the appeal of community. I don’t care about identifying myself one way or the other. Yes, I am a runner, as a matter of fact I am very passionate about running but I don’t need group recognition. But to some extent, I think I am a jealous lover. I do not want to share running with anyone else. Running is very intimate to me, so much that sometimes, I hear songs describing a relationship and I feel they are describing my relationship with running. So you will understand why it is so hard for me to see pictures of people having an orgy of good feelings during a race I just raced, and for which I am not completely satisfied of my results.

Running is my Sisyphus’ boulder

Which brings me to my next point: I am a competitive person. And the person I love to beat the most is myself. Running is the best avenue for me to compete with myself. And I thoroughly enjoy the process. Training every day to gain little edges of fitness is the most gratifying process in which I get to engage. The process is complex, dependent on many variables, which is why I am lucky to have a coach that is almost as passionate and knowledge about coaching as I am about running. This by no means ensures that I am always making the optimum choice of training every day, but leaning on people’s expertise is a good rule of thumb if you want to improve at a particular skill set. The great thing about self-competition is that you can always find ways to improve, whether it is getting better at a certain type of workout/distance or acknowledging the person that you are and knowing your limitations. More than improvement, training to be a better runner teaches me to have short and long term goals, all the while giving me a constant in my ever changing life. No matter where I am, I know that I can train. Which is why days like today, where I am unfortunately sick and it is more advised not to run at all, are very hard. Regardless, I know that the task of training will never finish, and that makes me pretty happy, because that means I get to run more!

Final thoughts

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the strings of words that are part of this article are a departure from my normal writing. They may in fact not even be coherent. Why publish them at all? Partly to experiment and see people’s reaction to it, but mostly to shut the voice inside me that beg me to write about the subject; just once, so that you understand how deeply and sincerely attached I am to running, and how much it humbles me. Running is so important to me, I try to advertise it as little as possible.