For nearly 30 years now, I have run. And for equally as long, I have been asked why I do it. It is an appropriate question, and one that is never really easily answered. I can usually respond to that question with an explanation that satisfies me, but rarely can address it to the approval of the questioner, unless the person asking is also a runner. I guess it would be like me asking a Proctologist why they Proctologize. But then again, I didn’t daydream about being a runner when I was in the second grade either.
The honest truth is that not only do we each run for our own personal reasons, but our individual motives change as we continue on our journey. I can assure you that as a 26 year old, I ran for much different reasons than I do today. When I was young, I didn’t worry about my health, or my girth, or my immortality, and I can assure you that today, I no longer train with illusions of running PR’s or with the belief that I will be young forever, and never lose a step. Although I pushed it back for as long as I could, the reality of aging finally set in and now I begrudgingly accept it. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
But even with my glory days far behind me, most mornings I set my alarm for a time long before dawn, throw on my reflective vest and a headlamp, go out the door, and run. And most days, when the run is completed, it is still dark. No wonder people ask me why. If I was anyone other than me, I would probably be asking myself the same question.
But running is a bug, and once a bug bites you, it grips you tightly. As I habitually weave my way around the neighborhood, spinning the same web day after day, month after month, year after year, I realize that I have no other choice. I don’t question why I do it, even though, as an objective observer, I know it doesn’t make sense. I am a runner, and therefore, I run.
I can remember when I was younger, living in North Carolina, around August of each year, as the humidity set in, big ugly spiders would show up out of nowhere, and would start spinning webs around my porch. At around dusk they would come out, and start spinning their webs, very meticulous in their approach. It was really a thing of beauty to watch them weave their calculated well-engineered webs, strand by strand, spoke by spoke. I rarely stayed to watch until that night’s web was finished, but the next morning, there it was, a completed symmetrical snare, sometimes perfectly undisturbed, and other times with a fly, or a moth caught within its clutches.
I never really thought much about it back then in my youth as a runner, but have come to realize that I am much like those spiders, and this is yet another reason I run. Did those spiders ever want to sleep in, and skip a night of web-weaving? Who knows? As a spider ages, does he ask if it is worth it to continue spinning the same web night after night? Probably not, because in reality a spider doesn’t have a choice. Their nutrition, their sustenance, their reward is all built into that web.
In much the same way, at a certain point in a runner’s life, the run becomes to a runner as the web is to the spider. As we weave our way around our running routes, spinning our own webs in for form of miles, we realize we need it to sustain us. We rarely question why we do it. We just know we have to. We are the species of human known as runners, and running is what we do. It becomes instinctive.
And for as long as the body allows it, the runner will not willingly not run. He can’t. To not run would leave him hungry, mal-nourished, and without the bug of nourishment. Running is the web we weave. And the web is what sustains us.