19 FEBRUARY 2013
One of the greatest things about running, I think, is that everyone does it for a different reason. Most of my friends run. Some do it for fitness, simply because it’s one of the most efficient ways of doing weight-bearing cardio that you can possibly find. Some do it for the sake of having time to themselves, or to get themselves to and from work each day. Some people do it for weight loss, though as a woman who runs it gets more than a little annoying (and somewhat offensive) when people assume that must be your overriding motivation. And some people do it to run events.
When I first started running, I didn’t have any intention of running events. In fact, I almost had an intention to not ever run an event. I didn’t understand the appeal; I’m a hyper-competitive person and I didn’t understand why I’d go out to do something I had absolutely no chance of winning. But after a while running – and a couple of events purely to fill in some time while on holiday – I started to understand the appeal of running an event.
The thing is, for me, events (even the tiny handful I’ve done) are fun. There’s a sense of comraderie about them. You are technically competing against other people but in a lot of ways, you aren’t at all. It’s tough to compare yourself to someone else on the day because things aren’t necessarily equal. They’ll be older than you or younger than you, more or less experienced than you, they’ll have longer or shorter legs, more or less developed muscles. The one person you can genuinely compete against is yourself, and once you get your head around that, the idea of racing becomes a whole lot more appealing.
Some of the nicest runners I’ve met were at my first event in San Francisco; a measly 5k on a chilly Sunday morning under the Golden Gate bridge. I didn’t know anybody when I turned up; my friend’s cousin introduced me to a couple of runners he knew. But the thing was, it didn’t matter. You have something in common with these people immediately; it’s not hard to start a conversation with them. And after the race what I loved was that everybody stood around, shaking hands, talking about running. It was an incredible feeling, and that was when I realised I was into this idea of racing.
I admire runners who can go out there five times a week without an endgoal; I have no problem with motivation even without anything on the horizon as I genuinely do love running for the sake of it. The people I really admire are the ones who hate it, who struggle through every kilometre, but go out there and do it every time regardless. Or ones who have a goal to do a half-marathon or a marathon once, and tick it off – and have no tickling temptation to enter another one a few months down the track. It fascinates me how one sport can bring in so many people with so many different approaches and motivations.
A race like the Routeburn is something different again; it’s tough. For me it’s probably psychologically tough every bit as much as physical; I have an idea in the back of my mind of what it’s going to be like and it’s probably grotesquely exaggerated. I have a friend who picks a different ‘physical challenge’ for herself each year and there’s a sense of that to this too; a way to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. And there’s probably not many people out there who consider themselves in their comfort zone running a race like that. And so much as I might get intimidated, much as I might worry when I’m nearing the end of a three hour training run that I won’t be able to phsyically do this, that’s the one reason why events are always going to be for me: because there’s nothing like knocking over a challenge.