it's complicated.

Been pondering the "why" of running quite a bit lately.

Not due to any doubts or second guesses, but because I've been incredibly inspired as of late by what folks have tackled, are tackling or are planning to tackle (and I'm not just talking about running) and, in turn, I have been wondering how far, how high and how hard I might try to go on foot before my body gives out on me. 

When I consider the motivations of others in doing something I love doing, I find it impossible not to look inward for what drives me.  At the same time, I've had friends and family ask me to explain the fascination.

It isn't the easiest thing to do.  Not because I don't have reasons.  In fact, I started making a mental list and ran out of paper.  But no single reason holds the key and the words I come up with fall woefully short of capturing everything I want to convey when pressed to explain myself.

Frustrated by my inability to express myself properly, I've been devouring other people's writing of running and marveling at their abilities.

The June issue of TrailRunner ran an article about Diana Finkel's amazing second overall (1st woman) finish at the 2010 Hardrock 100-Mile Endurance Run and the subsequent kidney failure that she suffered in the days following the event.  The account was penned by Ben Woodbeck, her husband and pacer for the last 40 miles of the race.  Turns out he's also a gifted writer and insightful runner.

To wit:

"Asking about running is just another way to wonder, what is it for?  Just as ineffable as why one would climb a mountain, or kayak a river, or jump from an airplane, I guess.  Running makes life worthwhile, maybe; it gives a little definition outside the confines and strictures of work and family.  It offers a community, one in which we can be individuals, ourselves, sometimes our best selves.  It reminds us what is important, somehow, even if it does so by reminding us that running is not really that important.  Relationships are important; another truth that we know but sometimes forget."

I love that.  Love it.

It speaks so beautifully to the "escape" of running without saying (as I would have) "running is such an escape."  Whatever it is that we turn to in order to get momentary respite from the weight of the world is valid only so long as we remember that while it's a lovely gift it isn't "real" in the way that the rest of life is and must be.  The danger is to get so fixated and so lost in that step away that we fail to come back to what really matters.

The best of escapes, and for me that is a gorgeous, inviting strand of single track, sharpens the focus upon returning on what truly is important.

And that, friends, deserves ice cream.


  1. Well...I'm sitiing in my hotel room in Leadville at 2:30 AM trying to muster the inner strength to get my shoes on so I can run 100 miles through the Rocky Mountains. As I sit here, I'm still questioning my own motives. If I figure it out sometime in the next 30 hours, I'll definitely share my new found wisdome with you.

  2. Very well said. And I especially like that trail runners, even more than road runners and certainly more than the average athlete, ask questions like this and engage in thoughtful introspection.

    Pat (from nearby Camp Hill)

  3. Kelly, based on Leadville's posted results, it looks you only had 25 of those 30 hours to seek insight. I look forward to your report on the physical and the mental journey. Pat, thanks much for reading and posting. I couldn't agree with you more on trail running's connection to something bigger than the road reveals. Hope to see you back here again and, better yet, out on the trails!