I’ve been telling everyone I know that a friend and I are going to run the West Coast Trail this summer. The 75 km long run will be tough, including ladders, cable cars over rivers and a hell of a lot of elevation gain and loss. The inevitable question always comes up: Why?
Most people associate running with pain and torture and place extremely negative connotations on it because that’s something they need to put themselves through to “get fit”. Why, if it’s going to be so much pain and torture, would you make yourself run 75 km non-stop?
I find it hard to peg down just one reason I why want to do the run this summer. There are so many. There are a few main ones that come up repeatedly.
The human body is an incredible thing and can endure an almost unlimited amount of punishment we throw at it. So if it’s possible to do these radical things, why not? Who is there to say we shouldn’t do these things? What reason do we have to sit on our butts instead of spending some time getting healthier and more fit and taking on one of the most challenging runs of our lives? I say it’s a waste to sit around and let these bodies waste away while the infinite number of incredible things we could do goes unchallenged.
Life is not meant to be easy. If I wanted life to be easy, I would go live with my parents, get an easy job and watch TV all day. Easy. And a huge waste! There is absolutely no challenge in that kind of life, no learning, no excitement. When the most exciting thing that happened all day was watching what Darcy said to Barbara on some TV show, there’s a problem. Completing challenges and learning new things increase your skills and make you comfortable with new things that you never thought possible. Just a few years ago I thought a 5 kilometer run was tough. It was an insurmountable challenge that I thought I could never get used to. Guess what? I do 5km runs now in my sleep. I don’t even think twice running that far. All because I did it the first time and it because easier. It just gets easier after that. Can I run 75 km? I’m not sure. But if I can, who knows what’s possible after that.
A gateway to incredible places
Most of the time I don’t think of running as fitness and something that I have to do. Running is something that I love doing because it takes me to places that you cannot get otherwise. It takes me up mountains, around lakes, along trails lined with ferns and trees that I’ve never seen before. It takes me out of the city, away from civilization and the havoc and pollution it creates to a beautiful, more peaceful place in the woods and in the mountains. Most people say they would love go and see these places, yet never make a move towards going. Start running and you will end up wherever you would like to go.
So many people these days are plugged in so much. They’re on some sort of electronic device all day for work and all evening for pleasure. We’ve come so far with technology and it can do great things but sometimes we rely on it too much. We can’t find something to do unless we turn something on. We can’t communicate unless we are typing. We can’t relaxing unless we’re watching something on a screen. Why not go back thousands of years and look at what we did then? Eat, sleep and run. That’s it. Sounds like a great life, right?No plans. Nothing to worry about. Why not get back to that for an hour and go for a run. Think of nothing but running. The wind, the dirt, the trees and the sun. That’s all you need. It’s not hard. Just unplug and go.
Fit Can Be Fun
So there are probably a few other reasons together with the ones above why I’d attempt running 75 km. The point is that I don’t see it as fitness. I don’t see anything I do as torture, or boot camp, or pointless pain. Every minute I’m out running, hiking or riding is a minute that’s a million times better than one in an office, or watching TV at home or paying taxes. That’s what matters. I don’t care how hard it is. I don’t care how far I’ve run or how far I’ve got left to go. Being out there pushing my muscles as far as they will go is one of my favorite places. Yes, I’m getting more fit every kilometer I run. But the most important part is that I’m having a great time doing it.
You Don’t Have to Run
Running is just one of the things that I do. I love it. It’s simple, I can do it anywhere and it really doesn’t cost anything. But if you don’t like it then you don’t have to do it. There are so many other things you could do instead. What about volleyball, soccer, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, ultimate frisbee, swimming, rowing or snowshoeing? There are so many things that you can do that will get you fit but don’t feel like, dare I say it, “the gym”. Ok, you may love the feeling you get from pumping iron there or giving it your all on the treadmill. Great! A lot of people don’t though. And they feel like they’re supposed to go because everyone says you’re supposed to be fit. Only part of that is true.
The part that is true is that you’re supposed to be fit. You’ll feel better, think better, look better and live longer when you’re fit. Everything in life is better when you’re fit. The part that isn’t true is that it has to be a grueling, tortuous process that only happens in places called “boot camp”. Ditch the crap you don’t like and get out there and do what you like to do. You can add a huge amount of activity to anything you do. Fitness doesn’t have to be bad. It’s just hiding under fun.
What are you doing to get outside and have fun this year? What “fitnessy” things are you ditching because they’re not fun any more?