Coach Mike Mead

December 2010

Running With A Purpose

Why do you run? I’ve asked that question to myself more than folks who have actually posed the question to me over the years. In my younger days it was strictly for the competition. After college it was competition and to see how much faster I could go. The major problem with running after college was it did not pay the bills and whatever I was doing career-wise was getting more attention.

The competitive days are long behind me. I direct my energies these days trying to motivate my college runners to achieve their best. I still run, but my purpose has shifted from competition to quality of life.

Runners run for many reasons and many purposes. Some run to better themselves as individuals. Many college-age runners run for athletic scholarships that get them an education necessary to have a productive career and a higher quality of life. Some literally run from poverty for a better life.

Growing up, some runners ran not just for themselves or competition, but for country. During the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the chant U-S-A became popular anytime we squared off against them in athletic competition.

It meant something any time we pulled off a victory over our Soviet nemesis. During the various Olympic Games, it became common place to see proud Americans draped with the Stars & Stripes after a victory, or trotting around the oval on a victory lap waving Old Glory. It meant something because if you won, it was a hard-fought win against a bitter rival.

With the Cold War in the history books and no more Soviet rivalry, it just doesn’t seem the same. Kenyan runners have dominated distance running for almost two generations now, but this “rivalry” is friendly. Competition, itself, has not gotten any easier but from my viewpoint it’s just different.

Nowadays when I see runners after a victory in an international competition, they continue to wrap themselves in his or her country’s flag. I’m more bothered by U.S. athletes wrapping themselves up with an American flag.

I am troubled when a runner wins a race and then goes on a victory lap wrapped in the American flag. It doesn’t seem genuine. I feel the flag is more of a prop than a symbol. It doesn’t have the same meaning that I observed as a kid watching running competitions growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. What is the purpose these days?

Many runners run for health. They run with a purpose to lose weight, improve their cardiovascular system, slow the aging process, whatever. Runners run for others with bad health conditions, such as cancer or a bad ticker. Runners run for a cause where proceeds go towards fighting cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, etc, etc, etc.!

Runners run to be challenged. We’ve all been down that road! Someone talks you into trying a 5K. You try it, even though you thought you wouldn’t finish and you get hooked. Sort of like golf – it just takes one good shot to keep your interest.

Once you feel like you have mastered the 5K, you look to the 10K for a greater challenge. Then it’s maybe a 15K or half marathon. Then you decide it’s time to do a marathon. Then it’s big-time marathons like Boston and New York. The challenges never cease!

Running has taken me more places than where my two feet have physically taken me. Why do you run? What is your purpose? It’s not a bad time of the year to ask yourself these questions. Anyone who runs needs to look inside themselves. Running is more than a T-shirt, a trophy or running a particular time.

Running is more about the journey than the destination. It’s about the people you meet and help along the way. How you handle the successes and failings during your time make you into the person you truly are. Running can bring out the best and worst in us. However, if you’ve run long enough, I believe it brings out the best in us!

Why do you run? Reaffirm your reasons. Discover the purpose running provides you and embrace the positives running has made in your life. Learn what motivates you to run so you may go longer and faster!

Enough said. Go forth!