What makes one pay $100 to wake at 4:45am on a cold autumn day, go pounding the pavement for 21km to inevitably feel fatigued and experience muscle sureness? A casual observer might conclude that this is a form of self flagellation. My friends for one, think I’m crazy. But 12,000 runners signed up for the Sydney Morning Herald half marathon, which took place today. We can’t all be crazy or sadists.
Running has impacted my life in a positive way, and I believe this is true for most runners. That’s why we keep coming back for more and sign up for gruelling races. When I go for a run I feel happier and less stressed – this is because endorphins in the body are released when you are running. Endorphins are hormones that create a sense of euphoria or a feel-good effect. So you may experience a surge of joy – even after running.
But running is not just about a flood of happy hormones. Another great satisfaction I get from the sport is that it pushes me far beyond my usual limits. Every race or training session is an opportunity to try a little harder and to set audacious goals – the impossible becomes plausible and sometimes even doable!
I remember the first time I tried to run, I was out of breath in less than 500 meters. But I persevered and every time I hit the road I set a new goal – soon I was running 5km. Then 10km and later, half marathons. Eventually I even signed up to the mythical 42.2km – a full marathon. Of course this wasn’t a goal that I set overnight. After a few years of consistent running, I started toying with the idea of this less than trivial undertaking.
From my experience I say that your results on race day truly reflect the hours you logged on the road. And to put the hours, you need a good deal of discipline to follow a training program. Rain or sunshine. You need resilience to continue when you aren’t achieving your goals and to overcome injuries. It’s hard work full stop. That’s why most people think that runners must have a few missing screws in their heads (maybe they dropped a few bolts on the road!).
In the age of convenience and instant gratification, I find running quite refreshing. In every run you earn the rewards from your sustained effort. Running is an adventure of conquering our own Mount Everest, of doing your own personal best and overcoming your limits. Not many people have the focus or patience to do it. But those that do, are always winners, no matter what they are racing up against.
I think this quote summarises well why we, runners, voluntarily sign up and even pay to endure a bit if discomfort: “Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” Winston Churchill, January 1922