“Why do you run?” This question was presented to me by a young girl waiting for a bus with her family, while I ran past them. I didn’t stop there to give her an explanation for my tendency to run often, not because I didn’t have time for it, but mainly because I didn’t know the answer back then. I’m not quite sure if I have the answer now either, but at least I can make a few guesses and perhaps come to some kind of a conclusion.
I started running at the age of 16 because I wanted to do well in the 12 minute running test at junior high school. For some reason, it was important for me to to do well in all the testing that was involved in school sports education. I’m not exactly sure what the main reason for this need of success in such meaningless thing was. Perhaps I really enjoy testing? Or it may have been somehow related to the low self-esteem I had back then and therefore a way for me to compete with people who I wanted to compete with. I didn’t really like any of the people I went to school with, but for some reason showing them, that I am better than they are at something I’m not supposed to be good at at all, made me feel joy. Most of my male classmates were socially active football players while I mainly just stayed at home alone playing video games and reading books. Back then I must have felt envy towards the things that they did after school and during the weekends, while I concentrated on doing the same old things I had always done. The funny thing is, they often invited me to join them to do all the things that were normal for teenagers at that time, but for some reason I just couldn’t do it. They didn’t leave me out. I did. My siblings didn’t have problems like this, so my behavior wasn’t probably linked to how I was raised.
I knew already back then that most of the people I went to school with didn’t even care about the tests or the results, since the tests were just a thing you had to pass to get your grade from sports education. But it didn’t reduce the joy I felt when I succeeded in this competition, that I was the only one aware of. I’m not sure if my love for tests, both physical and mental, started from there, but it’s still alive and strong, even though I’m not competing against anyone anymore. Or am I? Maybe I’ll dwell into this later on, but let’s concentrate on running for now.
So once all the testing was done and we all graduated from junior high, most of my classmates advanced to high school while I had chosen to become an electrician and therefore would start vocational school after summer. It would have been easy to give up on running at this point, since I hadn’t even started it yet properly, but for some reason I felt the need to find out what kind of goals I can achieve if I keep running. While training for the 12 minute test, I had mostly run 3-5 kilometers at a time. Now I wanted to stretch the length of my runs, to see what kind of running distances are possible for me.
And as always, luck had it’s part to play in all this also. My fathers friend happened to encourage my father to start running also at that same time period, and his goal of running a marathon affected me also. We ran the Amsterdam marathon together in 2006 when I was 17 years old, and it felt like the greatest thing I had ever achieved. It left me with the feeling of truly doing something amazing and remarkable, even though running a marathon is not that rare or exciting thing to achieve after all. I ended up running two full marathons and a bit over ten half-marathons before driving myself into the state of overtraining. And a few half-marathons and other shorter distance competitions after recovering. I attempted to make a new record for half-marathon a couple of weeks ago, but in the end, failed horribly and almost ended up forfeiting the whole run.
Nowadays I mostly run for fun, and for the feeling of pure joy which it gives me. It is also one of the easiest and least time consuming ways to stay fit, since you can start running from your own doorsteps, and return there once you are done.
Running is fun and I enjoy doing it. I think this is the answer to the question, presented by that young girl.