A Sense Of Purpose

AJW's TaproomAny of us who’ve been distance running for any period of time have inevitably faced ‘The Question’ from those non-runners in our lives: “Why do you run?”

Each time I face this question, I seek to reconcile it in my own mind before attempting to put into context for the non-runner why I do what I do and, more to the point, why I love it so much.

It seems to me that for many of us the purpose of running is far reaching and broad. Some of us take to the roads and trails to lose weight, gain fitness, and perhaps, along the way, build confidence in who we are and who we are meant to be. We find satisfaction and joy in the process of distance running and we like the way it makes us feel and look.

Others among us run to satisfy our competitive urges. Becoming fit subsequently brings us to a place where we want to prove something, to others and ourselves. In this way, running provides a meaningful measuring stick through which we can evolve and improve. In the crucible of competitive distance running, many of us find ways to transcend the ordinary and become, even just briefly, extraordinary. In those competitive circumstances, many of us find satisfaction that can be unequaled in other parts of our lives.

Then there are those of us who take to running as a way to experience the world, to interact with nature and others in ways that are ‘up close and personal.’ Exploring our world on foot is perhaps the most raw and simple way to experience our surroundings and through running we can find a relationship with our environment that is at once constructive and harmonious. Having intimate closeness with the sights and smells of our world provides a sense of organic joy which is not easily quantified.

And then there are those of us, and I count myself among this group, for whom the tables are turned. For me, over the years, I have come to realize that I do not necessarily run for any particular purpose but rather it is the striving for purpose that propels me to run. While I certainly enjoy the fitness, the competition, and the integration with my environment that running provides for me, the higher joy in running is that running, in and of itself, gives my life purpose. The simple act of running provides meaning and focus in my life that few others things do and finding that sense of purpose keeps me heading out the door day after day, week after week, year after year.

Each time I lace them up and head out into the world on the run, I find myself renewed. I find new vistas opened, obstacles removed, and opportunities revealed. Running opens up windows and exposes mirrors that allow me to delve more deeply into a true sense of who I am and who I can become. Regardless of age and stage, speed and terrain, running has so much to teach that we simply need to open ourselves up to it. In so doing, we may not always win, but we will always get better and in the end, that’s about all we can hope for in this one life we have.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Peak Organic Brewing Company in Portland, Maine. The first truly organic beer I’ve enjoyed is Peak’s The Juice. This is a nice fruity pale ale that may just redefine organic beers into the future.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • When a non-runner asks why you run, how do you answer? Why exactly do you you lace ’em up every day?
  • Does running offer some sense of purpose in your life?

There are 8 comments

  1. Sdb

    Another great read AJW. I really look forward to the Tap Room each Friday. I hope the recovery is going well and you come back with a renewed sense of purpose.

  2. David

    It is really very simple. Although we might lose weight, extend our life, keep us well, enjoy the beauty of the trail, I just tell my friends who ask, that running trails for the past 50 years has made each day, no exceptions, just a little bit better. Rest in peace Bill Dooper, Meghan, I hope to see you and Bryon at WS100 this year. I will be the old fart in the original white irunfar shirt. If I can assist you guys as a volunteer, in any capacity, just hit me up on email.
    Happy Trails,

  3. Trevor

    “To only think about the end of the training makes no sense, you must face the singular task in front of you.”

    — from The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei

  4. Phil Boucher

    I’ll be 65 very soon and I’ve been running since high school with only a couple of minor breaks along the way. Those of us who run do so for many reasons but there is no need to intellectualize it. Runners understand. Non-runners don’t. It’s like people who like cats vs people who don’t. Our brains are just wired differently.

    I don’t even try to explain anymore. When I was in my 20s, I was constantly told that I would need to have my hips and knees replaced before I am 40, that “everyone knows” “studies have proven” that walking is better than running, that my running is just an ego thing based in insecurity that needs to be worked out…. I’ve never been injured, never sick, never been on medication for anything, fitter than most teens and 20-somethings,…. I don’t know… sounds like running is actually a good thing.

    I just run. If you need to ask why, you just don’t get it and never will. If you run, you understand. Now if you will excuse me, it’s time for my run. It’s hill day.

  5. James

    Great article – thank you. The main reason I run is that, for me, running is a natural antidepressant. I have a tendency to be anxious and low in mood often without a clear reason – running helps restore some mental equilibrium. Sure – racing and competition is fun but it is definitely a secondary goal. Running helps me to be a better person.

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