Saturday, April 28, 2012

Why Do I Run?--The Seven C's

It is not often that I ask myself this question anymore.  Everyone around me knows me as a "runner"--whatever exactly that means.  But this morning, I was participating in a neat 5K race.  It was called Operation Oliver.  It focused on a neighborhood not far from where I work that is being revitalized with help from a number of organizations include one called the 6th Branch--military veterans performing service activities.  The local leader of the project carried an American flag (a large one like you'd hang outside your home) on a pole the whole race and ran not too far behind me.

The race was not the best organized.  No port-a-potties at the start or finish.  Took them a long time to figure out who got awards.  Not the best marked course.  And it was the last part that led me to ask that question--why do I run.

The race was so poorly marked and there may have been miscommunication among people who ran the race that some people ran 2.5 miles and others ran just over 3.  It was almost certainly short of 3.1 unless my watch erred the opposite direction as it does in every other race.  If it was 3.1, my 19:33 would be my first sub-20 time since high school.  As it was, my 19:33 projects out to about a 20:15 which would still be my personal best since high school.  That 20 minute 10K remains elusive.

But, I was challenged to answer "why do I run?" when I thought about what the mis-direction on the course would do to my placing.  Incidentally, I was first in my age group.  That's a nice feeling.  And the fact that I was even worried about it points to one of the reasons I run--I'm still competitive.  I once posted on Facebook "why do I still get butterflies before a race if it's all for fun?"  A friend from high school asked, "Are you sure it's just for fun?"  Today's race clearly showed me the answer is no.

Interestingly, there was a guy from the Back on My Feet team with which I run whom I did not expect to pass but did.  He indicated his frustration with the fact that he lost a place or two because of the misdirection.  Again, someone who is competitive.

My previous entry about Back on My Feet shows that it is not just about competition though.  It is also about community and caring.  A healthy mix of community, caring, and competition is not a bad thing.

And there are other things. I met new people today.  People talking as it got chilly after the race.  The race was run with the sun out.  Then the clouds came and it got cold.  But we talked for a long time about running, racing, and learning.  It was all good.

I saw people as they crossed the finish line.  Some struggled. Some were overjoyed.  Some who had obviously run most of the race slowly had it left in them to sprint as they could see the finish.  The joy and exhilaration that I saw on people's faces was amazing.

And, the sense of camaraderie.  I suppose that may be part of community.  But it is definitely cool to get to see others succeed.  I was the last one from team Christopher's place there today and I brought home medals for six other runners on my team.  I'll give them out on Monday.  It was just incredible.  I was particularly impressed by one woman whose running I knew was strong, but it became extra clear to me a couple weeks back when we did timed miles.  She ran a 6:12.  Few guys on the team were running that pace.  She hung with me and was the second female overall.  It is just so cool to be able to share success (and struggles--like trying to understand where the course actually went and dealing with the chill after the race) as part of being a team.

So, why do I run?  Competition, community, caring, and camaraderie.  To stay with a C theme, I could probably add compassion.  Given the sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a race I could add "completion".  And, finally, to complete the seven C's, I'd say "consecration".  A dedication to something.  It does not have to be religious.  It does have to be a higher purpose.  I believe there is a higher purpose to running.  And I believe that for me in particular that purpose is a key aspect of why I'm out there.  

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