Why I Run

I am a runner.

I was a runner in Junior High. I was a runner in High School. I was a runner as a missionary in South Africa. I’ve run hundreds of miles over the greater Provo area. I’ve run two marathons, one 10k and many 5ks. I have more races on my list. 

I’m not a very good runner. I never really was. Despite my years of running Cross Country and Track, I was never on a varsity team. I never won a race. I never lettered. I wouldn’t have even made it onto the BYU Track team. My best mile time (as a sophomore in high school) was 5 min 11 seconds. Good, but not great.

I don’t even really like running – that is, the physical process of throwing up one leg and putting it down in front of you, then doing the same with the other leg, over and over.

And over. 

For 4 hours in a row, sometimes. It just gets old.

And yet, being a runner is something very important to me. It’s something I hope to do for the rest of my life. Running does several positive things for me… things that are essential to living my life in a full and sustainable way.

First, when I run, I am alone. This isn’t often a desired outcome for people but being a deliberate person and an unashamed introvert, I enjoy having personal time to think and calibrate. In the busy daily schedule of work, church, family, meals, logistics, following the news, personal projects, etc., I usually don’t have the time or bandwidth to ask myself the most important questions: How’s my life going? Am I prioritizing things appropriately? Am I  Am I still living according to my principles? Do I have goals? If so, how am I doing on them? If not, what goals should I set? Are there bad things I should stop? Are there good things I should start? Am I missing out on opportunities? Is my life in balance? I have found that these quiet moments of distraction free self-reflection are the times when I am most open to ideas and inspiration on changes I ought to be making. Where would I be without these regular meetings with myself?

Second, I run for my health. I have a goal to live to age 100. Running is a great workout for sustained health – I’ve seen enough 70-year-olds cruise on past my exhausted frame in the middle of a marathon to attest to that. It’s a consistent way to do aerobic exercise, keeping your heart rate up for hours at a time. That means good cardiovascular heath (and cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death worldwide). As for me, my health risk profile says that when I die it will probably be from cancer. Running is my anti-cancer (along with abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, and excessive red meat – funny how the inspired Mormon code of health, established in 1833, fits perfectly into the Mayo Clinic’s research regarding cancer prevention). What’s more, it’s a behaviorally effective way to exercise. Unlike lifting weights (which I also enjoy), or doing elliptical machines, you can’t just give up when you get tired. If you do, you are still 5 miles away from your house.

Third, running helps me learn and explore. Sometimes when I run, I listen to podcasts on a variety of topics. I learn about  advances in my industry, economics, design, investing, and spirituality. All these things give me perspective and expand my mind. I also get to explore the running routes. I explore neighborhoods, cities, rivers, and highways. You often see things while running that you don’t normally see when cruising by in your car. I like seeing those things.

And fourth, as a bonus, unlike joining a health club or a gym, running is free.

Today I went on a run. While I ran, I realized many things about my professional progress and the next steps I need to take. I received flashes of insight, some inspired from this phenomenal episode of a podcast I was listening to. I got lost (A feat, in that it’s hard to get lost when you are running on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail. It’s one-dimensional. It’s like getting lost playing classic Mario brothers). As my 8 mile run turned into a 13 mile run, I had many opportunities to explore. I saw a yellow caterpillar, discovered a hidden wooden owl, and got smacked in the face by a butterfly. Not bad for an impromptu half marathon with no water.

So while I’m not that good and the process may be tedious. I keep on running because my life is benefited in so many ways.

(Note: Huge thanks to my brother Jeff, who has been a big influence on my running activity today)