I did not choose to be a runner. If the truth be told, I tried really hard to NOT choose running. But as it ended up, running chose me.
I am often asked why it is that I run. I’ve heard lots of people give lots of answers to this question. It’s kind of like answering the question, “Why are we here?” The answers will vary greatly based on someone’s beliefs, environment, experiences, upbringing and perspective. In other words, it’s very complicated.
The answers I hear range from wanting to lose weight, wanting to stay healthy, wanting to set a good example, wanting to run a mile, a 5k or a marathon, wanting some free time, wanting to get in shape and (once) wanting to listen to books on tape. I like that last one.
There’s also the ‘I need to…’ answers, like I need to qualify for an event, I need to make weight, I need to get ready for another sport, I need to get away and I need stress release.
When I was trying to choose a sport, I naturally started with the sport in which my big brother Dunk excelled — football. At age 8, I weighed 48 pounds and had to be weighed while wearing a complete uniform and pads in order to make the minimum (which, I did not). I broke my hip in the first game of the season — next choice!
Then I tried baseball. I was pretty good there, until a 70 mph fastball to the mid-section made me flinch at even the slowest and softest of pitches. NEXT. Basketball? I’m short, slow, have no reflexes, can’t jump, can’t shoot, can’t pivot… NEXT! Wrestling. I had two other brothers who were fairly good wrestlers, so why not. Ever see a guy get pinned in 15 seconds? Yeah, that was me.
I have often said that science isn’t about proving what works and what “is” but rather what doesn’t work and what “isn’t.” So many times, the choice is made for us not by what we can do but by what we can’t do. So to answer the question as to why I run — it’s because I really can’t do anything else very well. Ask me the javelin story some time if you want an example. Really in the end, running chose me.
This is not to say that runners can’t do anything else. In fact, runners are pretty darn good at a lot of things as a direct result of our aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and refusal to give up. We have exceptional mental capacities and powers of concentration. College runners typically have the highest team GPA on campus. And never get into a “who can fall asleep the fastest” contest with a runner. You’ll lose.
Page 2 of 2 - To choose running is to make a conscious choice of an activity that requires a little bit of time, some level of commitment and just a few items (running shoes being top of that list). Oh, and yourself. What you do with that time, commitment and self are completely up to you and no one else.
But to have running choose you is to give in to the very nature of control. That I pursue running has already been determined. It is really up to me to see it through. Eventually, it becomes less about what you can’t do and more about what running does FOR you. And in the end, isn’t that really why we run anyway?
Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andy Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer. Shearer has been running since 1978. His column “runs” the first Monday of each month.