Jasan JabautJoan Nesbit Mabe asked an elite athlete who wants her to coach him to write an essay on why he runs. Jason Jabaut spent a few weeks thinking about that, and after countless drafts wrote a bit over 400 words trying to explain it. In his essay (which you can read in full over at Songs of experience), he writes:

Thinking about why I run has directed me to realize many reasons why I do NOT run. I do not run for fun. I don’t run for fame. I’m definitely not doing it for fortune. There is a primal necessity that competing in this sport has wrought in me. I need to be satisfied. I haven’t felt it yet. I need to compete until I feel that satisfaction. I know it’s out there. It might not come after the perfect race, but it come after a race that I’ve spent thousands of hours preparing for and feel contentment directly upon crossing the finish line. I need to work harder than everyone else out there in order to achieve this. I need to work harder than everyone else simply in order to sleep at night.

Jason’s essay made me think a little bit about why I run, and once you read it I am sure that it will make you think about why you run, as well. I have not spent as much time thinking about this as Jason has, so I am going to save a definitive article about why I run for a later date. However, I can not help but compare myself to Jason. He may be an elite athlete that will forever be more talented than myself, but that does not mean that he is any less human or that his reasons are necessarily going to be any different.

The first thing that I notice is that Jason runs through the pain. That is one thing that I have been leery about ever since I was injured. Tendonitis and a stress fracture (different legs but at the same time) led to having to take too much time off and miss too much of my running. I try to be proactive about fixing problems with my body, rather than just hoping that the problems will go away.

I know what he means when he says that he needs to run to be satisfied. That he can not not run. I have had periods when I have not run, and I have gone through withdrawel symptoms. Sometimes, though, time off is the best way to further satisfy that need, and I have found that cross training can somewhat replace the need to run. Not completely; I am well satisfied after lifting weights or a good swim, but not as satisfied or as satisfied for long as when I go out for a good run.

A big part of my need to run is the competition. I can be perfectly content just training and enjoying myself, but once I get that first sniff at racing each year that contentment goes right out the window. Then it is a need to win, to dominate, and to find the dogs that can beat me and find a way to better prepare myself so that I can catch them. It can be very distracting at times.

I think that the race is what I love most about running. It is hard to hide when you race. You are out there, laid bare, and whether you perform or not is evident to everybody. You can not hide your effort or lack thereof. Your time speaks for itself. The results of where you are in the pecking order at the end of the race tells you exactly how you compared today to tens, hundreds, thousands of other people. And when there is nobody in front of you, you always have that inner demon telling you that you aren’t going fast enough. You need to quiet him, no matter how much it hurts at the time. The pain is temporary, but getting him to shut up is a great feeling. I know from experience, though, that it is one of the most difficult things to do, getting that demon off of your shoulder for a short time.

So why do you run? What makes you go out there and hit the roads, or the trails, or the track? Can you compare yourself to Jason Jabaut?

(Source Material: Songs of Experience (essay excerpt), Men’s Racing (photo))