The Daily Constitutional: What Makes You a Runner

AJWs TaproomIn response to a recent posting on my online training log, my good friend and training partner Brad Mitchell said,

AJW, right now, all you need to do is enjoy the simple ability to run.

Those indelibly wise words got me to thinking, what is it about our running that makes it so enjoyable? And, in that context, where do we find the most joy?

For me, coming off a series of injuries, I am simply thankful to run and Brad’s words echo again and again in my mind. That said, Brad also knows that I yearn for more and his words come at me in the form of a cautionary tale. You see, Brad is an unabashed straight shooter and his bluntness is not lost on those who run with him. Furthermore, I have had the fortune (or misfortune) of sharing hours on the trail with him and he knows me in ways that I wish he didn’t. He also knows that I am a “more-is-better” kind of guy even when I know, ultimately, more is worse

What we share, in a twisted kind of post-modernist way, is the joy of running.

Where, then, can that joy be found?

We all know that there is tremendous splendor in the wonder of Race Day. Blasting off the starting line in Squaw Valley, Silverton, Leadville, and Chamonix all carries with it a certain mystique and allure that is undeniable. The days and weeks and months of training all come together in the end to make the event The Experience and it often changes our lives.

Then, there are those great group training runs. Those opportunities to come together in the Solidarity of Suffering to enjoy multiple climbs and descents on our local hills and mountains and to share in the community of our great sport. In these places we talk and swap stories of trails, spouses, kids, dogs, and, usually, other times when things didn’t go as well “out there.”

There are the speed sessions, the hill repeats, the tempo runs, and the recovery days. On top of those, there are the exploration runs, the open-myself-to-the-world runs, the get-it-done-on-a-treadmill-because-I-am-on-a-business-trip runs, and the just-back-from-injury runs.

But, for me, there is nothing like the Daily Constitutional.

You know what it is. It’s that run that you always do. The run where you know your split at every trail junction, every stoplight, and every sidewalk crack. It’s the run you could do in your sleep and the run that makes you go to sleep. It’s the run that makes you strong, makes you think, makes you whole, makes you feel, and makes you separate and distinct from 99.9% of the rest of the world out there. Maybe it’s a trail run out your backyard in Ketchum, Idaho on the way to Adams Gulch or a run through the city streets of Oakland, California before you crest the hill and descend into Joaquin Miller Park. Perhaps it’s a run through the Wissahickon in Philadelphia on the way to the Toleration Stature or the Rogue in Medford that dries you out. On a particularly special day it could be a run up Camelback in Phoenix, Green in Boulder, Wilson in LA, or Sandia in Albuquerque. And, it could also be that simple 6-mile loop along rolling country roads in Anywhere, USA.

Whatever it is, it is yours and it is good and it is the thing that makes you a runner. Grinding out the miles day after day, week after week, month after month when nobody cares and nobody is looking is what makes us runners. It makes us more human and more animal, more deep and more complex, more evolved and more creative, and, in the end, more at peace with our place in the order of things.

Bottoms up!

AJW Taproom’s Beer of the Week
Beer River Racer 5 IPAThis week’s Beer of the Week comes from Bear Republic in Northern California. Given the field at the Lake Sonoma 50 mile, it’s hard to deny the Racer 5 as this week’s beer. It’s fast, smooth drinking, and, in the end, unforgiving.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • What brings you the most joy in running?
  • What’s your “daily constitutional” and what does it mean to you?

There are 24 comments

  1. Davide

    I always look forward to Tap Room, but this is the best one so far.

    I have my daily constitutional, and it's so important for me that I'm always a little bit jealous when I share it my friends, because it's an intimate relationship between me and that strech of trail. It's always my last run before race/holiday/business trip, and usually the first one afterward. Come rain, shine, snow… It's the place that always gives me some comfort, that, as you put it, puts me at peace with our place in the order of things.

    Great stuff.

  2. Jeff Faulkner

    Thanks for waking me up to some honest, deep thinking Andy. Now I've got something to ruminate over for the rest of the workday.

    My daily constitutional is more a function of time than of location. It is the time of the day where my wife says "have fun, stay safe" and I head out the door. I come back when I think I've been gone long enough to have put my thoughts in order. It may be early in the morning if it's the weekend, or late in the evening if it's the workweek, but I'll have my time. And I'll sweat.

    I love running and am thankful for every chance I get to partake.

  3. Charlie

    I was lucky to draw a ticket to Hardrock and have been grappling with a knee injury all spring. Your thoughtful comentary struck a note with me Andy. Among all of the things I fear missing(Hardrock, other races, group runs, etc.), it is the daily constitutional run that I am missing most now. My go-to run and destination is Mount Ascension, a 45 minute jaunt to the top, a couple of minutes to enjoy the view of Helena, MT and surrounding mountain ranges, and some cruiser miles back to the begining. It is my daily fix, my peace of mind, my stress release, my constitutional run. Its absence is monumental. My longing is exponential. Here's to speedy recoveries Andy and a future full of constitutional runs!

  4. Jeff

    I can relate – I run four miles at lunch time (2 x around the business park) four times a week. Then this winter they renovated the bathrooms, including the showers, so my routine was shot and I struggled getting up at 5:00 AM just to get those maintenance miles in. And at lunch time I didn't know what to do with myself without my daily constitutional.

  5. Andy

    Agree with Davide that this is the most powerful little piece from the Tap Room yet. Short, sweet, eye opening yet familiar — just like the daily constitutional. That stretch of trail where you not only know every junction and every outcrop, but have "favorite" spots like that slight dip through the hardwoods just before the left-hand bend, or the stream crossing with the flat rock and the log positioned for the perfect 1-2. As if I weren't jones-in' enough already with the season opening 50k here tomorrow! Keen insights and great writing. Thanks Andy.

  6. CJ

    Great post AJW! I agree with your friend Brad's statement. I think we need to consider each day we can run a blessing. Running is a gift from God and we can honor him with how we do it. For me, it's been such a joy to continue seeing my times get faster even as I'm getting older. I began running seriously just before turning 35 and was told I could expect to see improvement for ten years or so before the age thing becomes a factor. Of course, I'll try to extend it beyond ten years :-) It's also a joy to meet fellow runners and share the same passion and camaraderie. You have to truly be a runner to "get it". Thanks for putting this into words

  7. Rhymes with fountain

    The one run that you fail to mention, is what I like to call the "strech run." It's that run where you find that you can surpass the limitations that you put on yourself. It's that sweet moment of realization when you start to believe, "Yes, I can finish this." Mental, physical, and spiritual growth in one moment. It is when you truly believe. That is what I enjoy most out on the trail.

  8. Trail Clown

    This well-known guy has the daily constitutional of all constiutionals: http://ravenrun.net/

    I'm not quite at Raven status, but I've run around the same 6 mile loop near my house about 1,000 times with two kids in a stroller. All three of us have the same glassy-eyed look when we get back each day. Like…."is this all…there iz?"

  9. Jason

    My "constitutional" most days of the week is a one-hour(ish) run between leaving work and picking up my daughter from after-school. I'm lucky enough to have a network trails 1/4 mile from my front door where I can decompress from the day and recharge for the rest of the evening. No matter how tired or stressed I might feel in the late afternoon, pressing the reset button with a solo run through the woods makes everything better!

    "Grinding out the miles day after day, week after week, month after month when nobody cares and nobody is looking is what makes us runners."

    I love this line!

  10. Rydman

    AJ – best post so far. this one hit home because I discovered the simple act of running, first through my grandpa. he also imparted to me disciplined simplicity, which, like you described, having that route that is familiar and comforting. 15yrs of running later and it is still a part of me. wherever my wife and I move to or travel to, we first establish the "everyday route". thx for sharing.

  11. John Fegyveresi

    This was quite a poignant and moving post AJ. I know exactly what my little run in my little corner of the world is…and you're right: I know every crack, every turn…and it is mine. Thanks for this post. Really got me thinking.

    -j

  12. Nicole W

    one more thought: there's a book on Buddhism, Bright Dawn: Discovering Your Everyday Spirituality by Reverend Koyo Kubose, that examines the author's daily run along Lake Michigan and the meaning of various aspects of this run.

  13. Seamus Foy

    I think the greatest joy in running comes from cessation of thought. I feel it most on my "weekly constituitional", about 5.5 out and back with 900+ feet of ascent, 900+ of descent. It's 15 minutes from downtown Boston, so you wouldn't expect much, but it's relentlessly rocky and technical with plenty of steep climbs, including one that requires all four limbs.

    Something about the physical demand of all that climbing paired with many ridiculously treacherous stretches of rocks and roots pulls me into the zone and pumps me full of joy! If I think about anything, I'm gonna crash, so I let conscious thought cease, read the trail, and surrender to the primal instincts that propel us forward as I luxuriate in the endogenous chemical cocktail that must be a part of our evolution as runners…

  14. Spud

    Great tap Andy, certainly resonates with a lot of us. Love my constitutional too. Brings you back to the simplicity of it all, one foot in front of the other….repeat.

  15. Tom

    Amazing post Andy! The daily constitutional is what running is all about. Perhaps the only runs that are more powerful are those that I retrace when I visit the old trails of my youth. The places that made me a runner. The very trails where life long friendships were forged. Without out those runs I wouldn't be who I am today.

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