(photo by Prateek Kumar Rohatgi)

Recently I had seen a Facebook post from a ‘running’ friend — he is also a natural born leader — he leads a pack of very committed runners in their running journeys in a prominent suburb of Pune, India. His post clarified his reason to run…. in his own words, he runs because he can. I have friends who run because they love running. For many others, it is a way to maintain fitness. For a few, it has become their identity. For some it is their social outlet, while for some, it is either an alternate/supplemental source of income or primary too. When it comes to why one runs, there may be as many reasons as there are runners. To each, one’s own. However, independent of their primary reason to run, running seems to result in increased quality and vitality in runners’ lives — runners tend be more confident than their previous selves and are generally very reassured.

The post did make me reflect on why I run. To bring a bit of quick context, I am your regular everyday amateur runner. I have been running on and off for the last eight or nine years. I have run over ten full, three ultra and a few half marathons. I have been doing structured training for the last three years and that has helped me improve predictability and performance of my running. I particularly like running for its suitability to experiment and develop character. Running is a very personal activity and takes very little in terms of equipment.

Some of the key lessons I learnt from running:

  • First of all, endurance running is a mental sport
  • Transformation from a “victim” mindset (I could not achieve this because that did not happen, that person did not help etc) to an “accomplishing” mindset (set a challenging goal, plan for it, train for it — execute the plan, adjust as life happens and achieve it
  • Agile and growth mindset: learn from each event and incorporate lessons; set a more challenging goal and go about achieving it
  • Strengthen character by fortifying integrity: As is said, your character is determined by what you do when no one is watching. Most of my training runs are done in the wee hours of the morning, mostly when it is dark and with no one around (except street dogs — some of which chase me every time I pass them) — particularly the hard tempo and interval runs with none but yourself for motivation; honesty is a perquisite to sustain running
  • Crush ego and build humility: Running is a great equalizer — the rich and the poor, the male, the female and everyone else, the IT guys, the CEO, the finance planner, the housewife and the student, the fat and the lean, the old and the young — all kinds of people run and it is amazing to see/experience so many stereotypes broken — like the older ones easily overtaking the younger ones, like the slower ones (tortoise) overtaking the faster ones (rabbit) in the last ten kilometers of a marathon
  • Discipline and personal excellence: Running is built on the bedrock of discipline; I transformed from a relatively undisciplined life to a person of discipline; I was able to prioritize activities in life resulting in eliminating a lot of wasteful activities
  • Process over results — accomplishing over accomplishments: Worthwhile pursuits typically take a long time of investment (hard work, training, discipline); After years of running, now I have started to internalize a valuable lesson of focusing on the right process and results follow — milestones are to be crossed in a journey — they cannot be the destinations. I can keep writing about this but I hope you got the drift already
  • Ultimately our competition is only with ourselves. Each one of us is running our own race — competing furiously — not against other runners — but against our own selves
  • Ideas tend to turn over in our heads during runs and ultimately creative ideas/solutions tend to emerge to our nagging problems

These lessons clarify my reasons to run. To summarize, I find running to be a great personal development tool. It turned out to be the best intervention in my personal growth journey. Although I find running tedious, boring and painful, I have no doubts on running’s effectiveness in transforming one’s personality to the core. This transformative power turned around my whole life. I have become disciplined in most aspects of my life now, bringing order, progress and meaning to my career, personal finance and personal relationships with my near and dear ones.

With my reasons thus listed, I only wish for more people to partake of these benefits.