Monday, 30 October, 2006

Why I do it

On October 5, I wrote a short review of Dean Karnazes' book Ultramarathon Man.  In my review I said that Karnazes does a better job than most of answering the question, "Why?"  I also said that I don't have an answer that's any better than his.

In his October 15 entry, On not knowing why, Brook M said:

It seems as if some of these folks do extraordinarily difficult and dangerous things, but don't know why.  At the very least, they can't articulate whatever reasons they might have.  I've always thought one should know why one was doing something.

Furthermore, in response to my saying that most people don't react well to, "Go out and run 26 miles and then you'll have your own answer," Brook writes:

I'm one of those people.  My opinion is that if you can't articulate the reason for an action, then you don't have a reason.  You're simply working off instinct.

If nothing else, 12 hours alone on a bicycle gives one a lot of time to think.  And I thought a lot about why I was spending an entire day pedaling when most people would have spent the morning recovering from the previous night's birthday bash.  Somewhere along the way I reached a conclusion.

I have a whole host of reasons why I choose to participate in endurance events.  I enjoy being outdoors.  I exercise in part because it keeps me healthy.  Being out on the road bicycling, or on the trails running, allows me to clear my mind and release some of the tension from the day.  I like feeling tired but somehow refreshed after a ride.  I enjoy talking with other people I meet on the road.  I like being able to eat that extra piece of pumpkin cheesecake without worrying about its fat or caloric content.  I like pushing my body to see how far and how fast I can go, always striving to improve.  And I get a real kick out of watching the expression on somebody's face when I tell him that I rode 160 miles on my bicycle in 12 hours.

Those are my reasons and it's quite likely that people who don't participate in endurance events won't accept them.  But that's okay.  I don't understand why somebody would spend all of Sunday afternoon sitting on the couch watching football and drinking beer.  For that matter, I don't understand why anybody would spend much time at all in front of the TV.  I have no desire to own a boat or to spend all day standing in hip-deep water, flicking a line and hoping some fish will bite.

People who drive trucks for a living probably don't understand why I like sitting in front of the keyboard banging out code.  That's okay, because I don't understand the attraction of driving all day.  The only real issue is that endurance events are so far out of the realm of common experience that most people look askance at those of us who participate.  Almost every endurnace athlete will tell you that he anticipates and even enjoys getting those reactions.

You have your reasons for the things you do, and I have my reasons for the many activities I enjoy.  We might not accept the other's reasons as valid for us, but as big-brained primates, hopefully the smartest species on the planet, I think we can accept that the other's reasons are valid for him, and agree to get along even though we don't fully understand each other.