The theme of running and health has come up quite frequently lately and has gotten me thinking about motivations a bit.
Health was never a fundamental consideration in my life. The word itself was always attached to hokey public service announcements in between cartoons teling me to eat my vegetables, so of course, I developed the association that vegetables were something NOT to eat. Boy have things changed.
When I went vegan back in ’94 the health consideration was one of the last of my motivations. I concretely went vegan for ethical reasons in relation to the treatment and domination of non-human animals. To be honest, if someone told me going vegan would slowly turn my brain to liquid 30 years later I still would have made the same decision. I had tunnel vision as far as my motivation went. As I got a little older and a little more aware my scope widened enough to bring in the consideration of the environment and animal agriculture’s detrimental relationship with it. Still, health was just a side note I would bring up only during specific arguments. I still wasn’t all that concerned with it.
Of course now i’m almost 33 and maybe more out of necessity than a responsible thought process I take the treatment of my health with greater consciousness. I pay attention to the quantity of certain ingredients, vitamins, etc., that go into my body. I avoid certain unhealthy vegan foods. I try to eat more whole foods and foods that correlate with my running….though I’m certainly no foodist saint – I can take down a bag of oreos in one sitting without blinking an eye.
The interesting comparison is that I approach the health aspects of running in the same way I viewed them at the beginning of my veganism, which is to say not much at all.
To use some recent examples of this, at work the other day a co-worker said to me, “See, with your running and all, I see you as like the epitome of health.” And while knocking out a relatively fast and severely sweaty 12 on the canal the other day, a young boy walking with his family says, “Getting some good exercise?!”
Now, I appreciate the health aspects of running. I am fully aware of them and recognize their value, but that is so not my reason for putting in the mileage I do every week. So when that kid on the canal said “Getting some good exercise?!”, in my head I was responding, “What? Hell no! I mean, actually, yeah, but is that why you think I’m out here?” I mean, damn, I’m not some middle aged dude trying to keep my cholesterol down….I’m trying to hit another PR! I mean, I have NEVER went down to the track to knock out 6 x 1 miles all under 5:10 so as to avoid diabetes. I don’t knock out 20 mile runs thinking how great this will be for lowering my cholesterol level. I don’t exhaust myself doing hill sprint after hill sprint while thinking about avoiding heart disease. I mean, yeah, all those benefits are awesome, but that’s not why I do this. I DO THIS TO RUN FAST!
Which brings me to a related subject, categorization. I’m a runner, but say that to others and they’ll picture the guy slowly jogging up the local rail trail trying to keep his weight down. I am NOT THAT GUY. The term runner can mean so many things to so many people and it’s used to define many different ways of running. Runners say they are runners. Joggers say they are runners. One time Mini-marathon finishers say they are runners. Walk – jog program adherents say they are runners. So although for simplicity’s sake I will refer to myself as a runner at times, when I have the chance I prefer to classify myself more specifically. I am not simply a “runner”, I am a DISTANCE RUNNER. And I’m also not simply a distance runner. I’m a COMPETITIVE DISTANCE RUNNER. Any description further than that just gets too complicated, but that one does sufficiently convey an intent that is less inherent in simply calling oneself a “runner”.
A competitive distance runner, emphasis on competitive, says something about my foundational intent, my motivations. I don’t run for health. I don’t run for a collection of finisher medals. I don’t run just to have a social outing every once in awhile. I run to RUN FAST. I run to RACE. I run to push my body to its breaking point, and then see how much further I can push it, and again and again. I run to, as it was well put to me recently, FEEL LIKE A GOD.
Yes, the health benefits come with these efforts, and I appreciate them fully, but right now I’m doing this for even greater reasons. See, a lot of people run to ACHIEVE good health. To them, the success is the finish line, whether that is a certain weight, certain cholesterol level, or what have you, but for some of us, that would only be the beginning. At the risk of sounding arrogant, I don’t feel like I need to IMPROVE myself. I don’t feel like I reside in some negative zone that necessitates a positive effort. I feel like I’m already at that state of improvement. I’m already healthy (relatively), THAT is the STARTING POINT. For some of us, it’s not about GETTING to be healthy, it’s about UTILIZING that state of health, to then see what we can do, to see how close we can come to being gods.
11 / 12 (?) miles. 1:16 of running. 90 degree heat. 10 Holcomb Garden hill sprints. 3 steeper neighborhood hill sprints. Cool down back home.
Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ peanut butter, almonds, raisins, turbinado), Coffee
Lunch – Leftover rice w/ veggies and coconut milk sauce
Dinner – Sir fry w/ tofu and okra (that turned to snot)
Snacks – water, coffee, banana, grape nuts cereal, raspberry sorbet