The Reason We Keep Running

    

On my Facebook Page, I asked “What was your first race? How was it?” and got some great responses on the thread as well as on Twitter. I asked that question because I wanted to engage in some nostalgia about firsts, but didn’t realize there was a common thread throughout the stories. See if you can spot it:

JM Chico wrote: It was STRIDE FOR HOPE last Feb or March this year… No practice no knowledge no anything but I decided to push for it. When I was on the field I almost cried. I didn’t know that 5k is that long but I decided to finish the race… I was so challenged I told myself this is not my last race! I need to improve!

Jay B Cruz wrote: WeRun Nike MNLA 2011 – 10K my first official run. It was a great experience though I finished it in 1hr 15 mins. I know it’s not that fast but it inspires me and my friends and even total strangers, by achieving such! My inner determination was seriously challenged. I trained, worked out my stamina and speed, I got hooked, and now I’m regularly joining races and marathons.

Novy Licayan wrote: Sarap sa feeling yung nakikita mo every month na nagi-improve yung time ko every run namin from 53mins from my very first 5km run and now it’s 33mins for 5km run. Pati yung pacing super nag-improve talaga from 1 min run, 4 mins walk now it’s 5mins run and 2mins walk and still improving. Fulfillment na yun sa akin na makita na nagi-improve talaga ako at ang laki ng pagbabago sa buhay ko…

Matthew Velmonte wrote: My first race was 5k at PARM held in UP! I was so clueless i wore high cut basketball shoes with matching jersey. I thought the 5k was just a walk in the park needless to say I got my behind kicked that day but I loved it! 4 years since that day I’m still getting my butt kicked by running and I’m loving it every stride of the way.

Jeans Cequina wrote: Now, I run not away FROM; not even TOWARDS. I run INTO an inner world. I discover myself…

Jeremy David Chua wrote: In the middle of the race, I see people walking, apparently tired; others are stopping, having a rest, or stretching. I even spotted one man lying on the ground in front of an ambulance… I think about what all these other people around me were thinking precisely at that moment. But there’s one thing that didn’t cross my mind. I never thought that I would not be able to finish the race. That’s the spirit.

I’ve seen the local running community grow. I have friends who started running and are still at it, and friends who tried running a few races and then dropped out. I’ve had long discussions with race organizers and other stakeholders in the running industry about how to get people running and how to keep them running. These days races give runners a cushy, hassle-free experience (which isn’t a bad thing, of course!). Races also offer lootbags as an incentive for people to sign up. And the medals! (I love a good finisher medal, too.)

But all this is external and superficial. People who keep on running on long after that initial honeymoon period of the social experience at races (really, how many post-race photobooths can you use before the pics all start looking the same?) must do so because of something intrinsic, something within them that compels them. Think of the hours of running, sometimes by oneself. Think of the sore muscles, the blisters and calluses, the blood, sweat, and tears. Why would a person willingly go through all that just for a finisher’s medal and some photos for Facebook?

Rip the Road: Relentless
(photo from Francis Espero)

The common thread in the stories above is: these runners were all challenged during their first race experience/s, but they rose to the challenge. Even better, they have continued to find new ways to push their limits. Running became part of their process of self-discovery and self-actualization, part of how they answer the question, “What kind of person am I?”

When the Philippine running community grows and encourages this kind of runner, we will no longer worry about whether the sport is a fad or here to stay. We might have to start worrying about whether we have enough road to satisfy such runners.

With runners like these, when you ask them, “Why do you keep running?” their answer will be, “How can I not?”

This was inspired by The Oatmeal: The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.

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