When it comes to running, everyone is engaged in a solo battle. Whether the athlete is competing in a 100m Olympic final or trying to get out of the door for a 30 minute easy run, the challenge is singularly personal. Does that make running unique as far as sport is concerned? And is that why so many people love it? Here is what Simon Freeman, LtW co-founder and editor, thinks.  

Running is a team sport. Not in the traditional sense of a group of players in matching uniforms competing against another team, both groups aiming to score more goals than their opponents or do whatever constitutes winning, within the rules. But running is a team sport in the sense that runners rarely, if ever, train and compete absolutely, completely alone. We have supportive life partners. Many of us have training partners. Maybe a coach. There are clubs or crews with whom we run. Parents who turn up on the side of the road to yell encouragement at us during races. There are friends who will occasionally join us for a run (and put the world to rights at the same time). 

However in one important sense running is a solo pursuit and that perhaps makes it unique amongst sports. I believe that the biggest battle in running is waged inside our heads. And no one can really help us with that. They also can’t defeat us, which is a good thing. 

Thankfully there is a way to beat our personal challenges. The battle we wage with running is best defeated by a powerful weapon that we get to create and hone: our ‘why’. Over the decade that we have been publishing Like the Wind, I have had the chance to ask hundreds – perhaps thousands – of runners about their motivation. Taking the strap line of Like the Wind – It’s Why We Run – as a starting point for a conversation is a great way to gain an insight into the athlete. 

In the most recent issue of Like the Wind – LtW#40: a special edition we published to celebrate the magazine’s 10th anniversary – the team and a number of other people associated with LtW picked their favourite story. Mine was called “The Dating Game” written by marathon legend Dick Beardsley. It is the story of why Dick runs, in as much as it is about how he started. Essentially one of the United States’ best marathoners from the golden era of road racing in the 1970’s started running in pursuit of love. You can read the story here.

I love this story for many reasons. One of which is how it ends. There is no mention of what Dick went on to achieve in his running. Starting with a 2h47m13s marathon debut at the 1977 Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Hurley, Wisconsin, Dick went on to record 13 consecutive personal bests. He won the inaugural London marathon, joint first with Norwegian Inge Simonsen. Dick raced fellow American Alberto Salazar in the 1982 Boston marathon, in what became known as the Duel in the Sun – both men breaking the course and US marathon records (as well as each other) in the process. 

What is clear is that Dick’s why for running changed over time – when he was breaking records, it was no longer in pursuit of a first date! And that is a wonderful concept. My ‘why’ for getting started was not the same reason I chased marathon PBs, training nine times and racking up 80 or 90 mile per week for months at a time. And the ‘why’ that sustained me through that period of my running life is not the same as why I run now. I imagine it will change in the future. 

What I know will not change is the need for a ‘why’. And that is a great thing because there are as many reasons ‘why we run’ as there are runners. 

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