The Daily Constitutional: What Makes You a Runner

AJW explores how “your run,” whatever it is, makes you a runner.

By on April 13, 2012 | Comments

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?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.