That question has stuck with me though, and I have pondered it (usually during the midst of a several hour run....)- why do I run? Is it mainly for the exercise (that's how it started for me)? Is it to train for races (yes)? Is it because I like to (yes, usually)? Is it for other reasons? Probably, and that's what I've been giving some thought to, and I've come up with a few ideas.
1- I run because it's something that I can control. For so much of life, it seems like you're just along for the ride, and despite your best efforts you just get dragged along by circumstances. If I want to excel at running, I can train harder and see results. That's not always the way it works in life- sometimes you do the work, and nothing changes. At least with running I can see the results.
2- I run because I value the level of fitness it gives me. I'm 40 years old and I'm in the best shape of my life- I weigh the same as I did in high school (which wasn't the case 8 years ago). I have 6 pack abs- most other 40 year olds don't have that! I really like the fact that if a buddy calls up and says "do you want to go out for a 35km run?" I don't have to worry about if my body can take it. I like being fit, and running is big part of that.
3- I run because it works for my schedule. I've done other activities, and the problem with so many of them is that they get in the way of life (or more accurately, life gets in the way of them). I used to windsurf a lot, but you can't plan for it- you've gotta go when the wind blows. I used to snowboard a lot, but once kids came along I could no longer afford it, and I wasn't willing to take the time away from my family. With running, I can work it around life. At this point in my life, that means getting out of bed at 4:45am to get my runs in, but at least I'm making it happen.
4- I run because it's my "me" time. When I run, it's just me (mostly because I can't get any training partners to run with me at 5am). It's time for me to be alone with my thoughts- no calls, no email, no kids asking for stuff- an hour and a half of peace, quiet and no responsibility. If I want to turn left and head to the hills north of town, that's fine. If I want to turn right and head to the Provincial Park, that's fine too- that's my time to do whatever I want.
5- I run because I'm doing something that not a lot of other people can do. Perhaps there's a bit of pride in this, but I like knowing that when I go pound out 20km before work, or run 35km on a Sunday morning, I'm doing something that none of my co-workers are able to do. I like that feeling.
I'm sure I could come up with a dozen other ideas about why I run, and I'm sure when I'm out on the roads before the sun comes up tomorrow morning, I will think of other things.
Here's the thing though- we don't have to come up with reasons for it- if you like it, and if you're doing it for your own reasons, then who cares what anyone says! You don't have to explain yourself to them. I just wanted to give a bit of thought to why I do it, and get to understand my own motivation a bit better.