Sunday, May 15, 2011

Born to Run

“The real reason we race isn’t so much to beat each other.. but to be with each other.”
-- Christopher McDougall, Born to Run

I have never liked sport. I’ve never liked watching it, doing it, or reading about it. I’m not terribly well coordinated, so I’ve never been particularly good at it either, although I do seem to remember being not too bad at playing dodgeball in high school.

Despite this, about eight or nine years ago I started running around the neighborhood occasionally. After I came to Japan I did it more, and in the first spring and summer I was here I ran a lot. I remember running late at night by myself enjoying the quiet, the warmth, the run.

Then came winter, and the gradual fall into depression, which I am yet to really escape almost five years later. The worse I felt, the less exercise I did. Gradually I improved a little, and while I have been up and down over the years, I’ve never really fully recovered. That first plunge down was not even the worst one. In fact, the major episodes seem to get worse each time. Whether this will continue to its logical conclusion remains to be seen.

One of the things I did last year to try and save myself was to start running more often, in a more consistent way. I did the the Tokyo marathon again, and have done a few other, shorter races too.

While I rarely feel the “runners high” that people often talk about, it can make me feel better. The physical exercise itself, but especially when I run with others. There is something that feels good about it on a basic level. Maybe it is just the natural combination of exercise and having company. But I can’t help feel that it is something else, that it is somehow more than just that.

I recently read McDougall’s book, in which he talks about persistence hunting, still practiced by the Kalahari bushmen in Africa, in which hunters working together can literally run an animal to death, and McDougall speculates that this may be at the root of our ability to run. Members of the tribe would run together, and be able to bring down game that they would never have been able to catch individually, and in doing so they would be able to feed the group.

I might be just deluding myself, or making too much of a simple thing. But when I run with others, even though we are simply running to keep ourselves healthy, I can’t help but wonder if that special feeling I can’t quite define is not the ghost of those long millennia of persistence hunters, generation after generation of runners working together to survive for another day. Maybe we are indeed born to run.


  1. Indeed we are. Even if we are not I have never tried I find myself daydreaming about just running. I do think that it is an integral part of our past and it is a shame that we no longer fulfill that need. A basic need. Cars and mass transit have changed the world and not all for the better. I just completely agree with your post.

  2. I love reading your blog. It reminds me a lot of my struggles with this same thing. I started my own blog a few months ago too. I really want to get it out there, im inspired by your ability to talk about it.Its about my struggle with depression and social anxiety disorder. I would really appreciate it if you could help get it out there, maybe just put the link in one of your posts. That would be awesome. You don't have to of course. But thank you for your blog, it help me understand myself better. I want to be a writer someday. I'm 16 by the way. 

    That is the link to can read it/reccomend or post the link to other people too if u want. I dot know why, but I just feel like i want to talk about things, and an audiance who doesnt know me seems safer than an audiance who does. Im inspired by your ability to live with your depression, I hope I can too.

    You talk about running a lot. I used to be a huge runner, soccer, track, I just loved it. It helped my mood a lot too. Ever since I've started getting leg surgeries I havnt been able to run, or even walk. I miss it. Your blog sometimes reminds me of that good feeling when you run. I love it too.

  3. @ITP - Yep, our current lifestyle which involves sitting most of the time is not so healthy for us. Our bodies are designed to get out there and move, so even if we can't run so much, most of us can at least get out there and walk. I'm suffering from an annoying cold at the moment so I'm not running at the moment - I can't wait until I'm better so I can get out there and hit the road again!

    @Alana - Thanks for coming by and posting, I'm glad that you get something out of my blog. I would really rather not be living with this depression, but given that I apparently have to, running really helps.

    I've been feeling frustrated and sorry for myself that I can't get out and run due to my cold. But your message really puts things into perspective, and I can't imagine how frustrating it must be to love exercising but be unable to do it at all due to surgeries, I feel for you. I hope that you get well soon and can get out and moving around again.