Meaning & motivation

Posted on January 30, 2013

Running-challenge“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

I listened to a thought-provoking discussion the other day about what we need to take to our races. Gels and gear aside, a vital thing to remember was your why … your reason for running.  When the going gets tough, everyone needs to draw on their own why and if not compelling or personal enough, a start without a finish is almost inevitable. 

There can be a temptation or tendency instead to focus too much on the how of what we do. The more I go through life however, not only in terms of my running but with every other aspect too, I realise that a plan of execution means little without a solid why.

The why is your anchor … it is a reasoning that stems from your heart rather than your brain, it is what pulls you through no matter how elusive the how may seem.

I think the sheer nature of long distance running is the perfect backdrop to that ongoing search for why. Run any distance and at some point, you suffer and that suffering is entirely self-inflicted. Does that mean we’re all insane? Perhaps a little! But the real reason we continue is because that pain, that suffering, holds meaning for us …

Marshal Ulrich discusses this in his book Running on Empty as does Scott Jurek in Eat & Run … Jurek says:

“Life is not a race.  Neither is the ultra marathon, not really, even though it looks like one.  There is no finish line.  We strive toward a goal, bit it’s not what is most important.  What matters is how we move toward that goal.  What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.”

At first I thought that sounded contradictory to Nietzsche’s quote …

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

… but actually, the two quotes complement each other perfectly.  Nietzsche simply states that you must have a reason to live.  With that, you can endure pain. Jurek, on the other hand, focuses on the present moment, the act of using your purpose to guide your footsteps, your actions now.  Subtle difference! Jurek says he runs to see what he’s capable of.  He strives to be the best he can be, to see what he’s made of.

Perhaps you resonate with Jurek’s reason for running. Perhaps not. But regardless, anyone who has ever run a long way will know that it leads to a higher state of mind and a soul-enhancing place of insight and clarity. The digger you deep, the more you discover … and that alone, is reason enough to tie up your laces and get out the door, even when motivation is at it’s lowest!

Happy running x


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