Defining Elements: Do you like to Run?
Who we are, as humans, is defined by our hobbies, our beliefs, our choices. If a guy goes to basketball practice twice a week after school and plays on Saturday – but he doesn’t stick around to chat for long afterwards, because he needs to be home in time to watch the seniors play on TV – then basketball is a defining element in who he is. If you were to earn a lot of money, would you send your kids to a private school – or would you go on lots of fancy holidays – or would you give a lot to charity? Your choice would help define who you are. I think the most important defining element is whether we believe that we are sinners and that the only way we can be saved is by in trusting Jesus, who was punished in our place. More in line with the smaller defining factors, but a big one by that standard, is whether or not you like to run. The reason is because those of us who like running tend to like it very much; but people who don’t enjoy running can’t even understand how anyone could like it. Even within runners, however, there are several types: different runners have different reasons for running – and this defines them further.
Exerciser. The first group of runners are the who who do it just to keep fit. I’m sure none of us shun the health benefits of running – no one would count it as a blemish on the sport – but this group of people only run to keep the bathroom scales from insulting them. Often exercisers can’t runners who don’t do it just for exercise: In some ways they are more like non-runners. For them, running is penance. It is the way they redeem themselves from a cheese burger at Maccas, or an extra piece of chocolate cake at a birthday party.
Socialiser. Not all runners are exercisers, however: for some it’s a great opportunity for a social occasion. These guys don’t like to run by themselves very much – for them, a run is an opportunity for a good conversation. They love the community feel, and for them fun runs with breakfast afterwards are a great place to make friends. This personality type appeals to me, I must say, and even those of us who would gladly run on our own love to have a bit of company every now and again.
Competitor. These are the gladiators, the deranged warriors who train every day to conquer the world. Few actually achieve this – and some competitors are not even that fast, but they will train hard and harder and seek fast and faster times. Their only limitations are their imperfect bodies, and only injury will prevent them from reaching the goal. Those who toe the start line (and, more importantly, cross the finish line) at international competitions are the more fortunate of these madmen (and women). You know that you’re a competitor if the face of your watch displays you value of your run.
Purist. These are only understood by their own kind – they just like to run, no strings attached. They’re not out there primarily to lose weight, nor to hang out with friends, nor even to win race. These are the people you’ll see running in the hottest days of summer, or on cold and frosty morning – or in the sleet (not that you’d be out in the sleet to see them). I remember a brief conversation I once heard, the context of which I do not remember. A girl said, “running releases endorphins; that’s why you feel good when you run.” The boy she was addressing didn’t agree, “I don’t feel good when I run,” he said, “I feel dead.” I was quick to interject: “but!” I said, “if it’s a worthwhile run, you’ll feel good and dead at the same time!” Most people do not understand this reasoning. For them, “good” and “dead” are not synonyms.
I don’t know which type of runner appeals most to you. Maybe none at all? In our family, believe it or not, we have all four! Mum is an exerciser, so I guess she is the most sensible of us. She doesn’t really like running – she just does it to keep down her chances of diabetes and heart disease and high blood pressure and obesity (not that obesity’s likely in the near future anyway)… and to keep the rest of us company.
My sister is a socialiser. She goes to running clubs to catch up with friends, but until we were invited by a coach to train under him with other kids, she didn’t train midweek. Even in her ambitions to go to nationals cross-country, she admitted that she wouldn’t mind if they left out the cross-country part: what she really wanted was to travel and stay with the team. That’s not to say she doesn’t train hard, because she does – which may be why prefers the social aspect. The “dead” overrules the “good”.
Dad is a mixture of competitor and purist. He likes to race, but even if their are no competitions to train for, he’ll still run.
And myself… at first I thought I was mostly a competitor (albeit a relatively slow one) – I am crazy with times. I can recite my entire 800 m Personal Best progression without batting an eyelid. Lately, though, I am realising that I do actually like running for the sake of it too. For one thing, I really can’t be bothered with race-walk training, even though at one stage I appeared to have more talent for it than for running. And for another thing, I don’t mind running slowly every now and again these days – a run is no longer wasted if I don’t do a Personal Best. And I understand the good feeling of the purists – but, being a competitor as well, I push it until I also feel dead.