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Why Do I Run?
Simon Clarke

Surely, if you want to travel at a pace quicker than walking pace, you can drive (assuming you have enough money to afford a car, insurance, petrol, a yearly MOT and have passed the not-hugely-realistic test).

If you want to take time over your journey, leave earlier and walk at normal walking pace. If you are running you begin to think you are going to be late which puts stress on your mind as well as your knees. If you don't have the money for a car, you can get a bicycle. Use public transport. Find someone else going to the same place as yourself and snatch a lift.

There are a vast number of good reasons to not need to run long distances. Therefore, why do it?

To be honest, there are few times that you really need to run long distances at all. The issue comes when you want to and what is your motivation. For me, there was one main drive which came in four forms:

The Prize
Winning
Breaking records
Personal goals

The Prize
I will explain the background details first. As a young, scrawny lad who did very little athletically in his younger years, I never had the physical build to be school champion in the wrestling competitions, the height to become a high-jump supremo or the muscle and flexibility (and nationality) to become the next Russian Gymnast gold-medalist.

So, naturally, I took to running and jumping. Initially together in the form of the triple jump. But with short legs, it soon became apparent that the triple jump was more of a hop-skip-and-fall-before-reaching-the-sand-pit kind of event whilst I was participating.

So I turned my attention to running. Between the ages of 14 and 16, I must have run for around four hours a week on average (yes, there were periods of sustained rest, such as the Football World Cup, or exams!). Not much you may think but, coupled in with school, watching TV and being lazy, wasn't too bad. As I realized I had quite a bit of stamina, I began to want to test myself against others. More than that, I began to want to win.

Winning
Every school sports day, when we had to choose an event, no one would go for the 1500 meters and so someone was always made to do it. The event, when the time came, was full of people who didn't want to be there and usually faked an injury at some point in the second lap to get out of any more running. I saw this as an opportunity. An opportunity to win, to become the best in the field at something.

Unfortunately, so did a fellow student of mine and it became a bit of a rivalry in the build up to the next year’s event. I wasn't running for any other reason than to beat him. To stand on that make-shift podium constructed from milk crates and old school doors. To hold that floppy, printed certificate proving I was the best 14 year old 1500 meter runner at the school that year.

After the rivalry fizzled, what with my competitor concentrating on his best events, the sprints and the javelin, I began to look at the school record. The more I timed myself, the more I realized I could take it. My motivation had changed.

Breaking Records
I trained. I trained hard. I would run slowly in the first session of the week for a couple of hours. Then the next one, pick up the pace. And so on. Until by the end of the week I was almost flat out around the lap. Initially, I was almost dead after 2-1/2 laps. But with persistence, I got there. I was recording times that were easily inside the school record.

Then, one of my biggest disappointments. I had worked hard to get to the point where I could go for this record on sports day, only to find that year 11s wouldn't be taking part in sports day, since it took place during the GCSE exams. I had worked for what seemed like nothing. For a while it seemed like a waste, but then I realized something else. I was working towards someone else's target. Why not make my own?

Personal Goals
The prize was no longer first place in school sports day, or capturing the school record. It was to beat my PE teacher. You may think that a strange goal and I accept that it wasn't the most admirable achievement in the history of competitive running by a million four-minute-miles. But to me, it was what drove me. He was a serious runner and would absolutely thrash us in lessons when we would do laps of the football field in lashing rain and stinking rugby tops that had been squashed in the bottom of our bag since last week, when it rained too (I was brought up in Plymouth... it always rained!). So in the one lesson when, after a good 2-1/2 years of trying, I managed to keep up with him for the whole hour’s lesson, I felt a sense of achievement. I never had time to run competitively outside of school, so to me, that was competition.

Now, running is all about setting my own targets. Whether it’s being able to get to the superstore in under five minutes, or seeing if I can run the length of the local cycle trail. Whenever I have the chance, if I can set myself a realistic but challenging feat, the satisfaction and enjoyment that follows once you've accomplished it is unmatched.

Thanks Simon for sharing your article.

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