Why do you run? The answers to that question are as wide and diverse as there are runners. Everyone has their own reason for running: I want to get in shape, I do it for the relationships, I do it to get away, I do it to push myself, I do it because I am good at it. Whatever the reason, everyone has one.
I have been running for the better part of three decades and I have gotten that question more times than I can count. There are a lot of answers to that question and I try to be honest when answering. I do it because it’s fun, I do it for the community (which I really believe there is no better community than trail runners), I do it because I am good at it. That last reason I usually say with a shrug of my shoulders and a chuckle and most people are satisfied with that. I mean why do people become accountants, or mechanics or writers, because they probably got praise for it at one point, and that feels good so they kept doing it. Maybe at one point they found joy in it or even still do. That is why I kept running. I wasn’t always good, but for most of my career I have been pretty good. For a long time, my main reason for running and racing was because I was good at it, and I received praise for it. Seems simple enough.
But over the last year I had been struggling with my racing. Running and training were going really well, I was fit and healthy but was struggling to find success out on the race course. That got me really questioning why I was doing this. I was frustrated and so naturally I started trying to think more about why I started running, why I am still running, is it worth it, etc. I wasn’t as “good” as I was before so my stock answer of “because I am good at it” didn’t really work anymore.
Eventually it came time for my next race. I went into it fit and relaxed and ready to run. The race started out by following my now regular pattern. It started out well but when the going got tough, I mentally started to fall apart. This isn’t really unheard of, but when your reasons for running is as thin as mine was, you don’t have much to keep you going. It was at this point while I was trudging through the Arizona desert that something finally clicked. I was asking myself “why am I doing this?” and I finally came up with an answer that was actually the truth. And that is because I do not think that I am actually good enough. The root of that goes pretty deep but when things started to click in my head I realized that I was running and racing because it was the only thing that made me artificially feel “good enough”. I think I always knew this but never wanted to admit it to myself. And to be sure, running and racing have brought me joy at various times but when it really comes down to it, those times were few and far between. When I was finally able to admit this to myself, (and subsequently my wife and friends/family and now all of you) I felt an enormous weight lifted off my shoulders.
I would like to say that with this weight now gone I was able to run faster and go on to win the race! But, actually, the opposite happened. It finally gave me the freedom to stop. I no longer had to race to prove myself because I finally felt that I didn’t have to prove anything. I do not need to be out here, I do not need to be doing this, I am good enough. And so I stopped. I dropped out of the race and that was an enormous relief.
I am not claiming to have any answers really, I only have my experience. I do not know when or if I will race again. But I know that I finally made the decision that was right for me. Not the decision my sponsors wanted or my family/friends expected. I did what was right for me. I don’t know if this resonates with anyone, I just hope it encourages you to be honest with yourself and to run for the reason that actually gives you joy.
I am working on telling myself this and I will tell you. You are good enough! You are not perfect, we’re all broken people, but we get to do amazing things when we run and regardless of your Why, just remember, you are good enough!