I’ve posted a few running-related pieces recently, referencing the 100k race I’ve entered at the end of May. They seem to have been fairly well received, but have inevitably prompted the question “Why?”
It’s a good question and, like all good questions, there’s no easy answer. Probably the most famous answer to the “Why?” question came from the climber George Mallory back in 1923, when asked why he wanted to climb Everest. “Because it’s there” is still arguably the most famous quote in mountaineering, but as an answer it was always a cop-out.
In reality, anyone who puts themself out there in pursuit of a challenging goal, whether a mountaineer, an entrepreneur or a middle-aged lawyer training for an ultra-marathon, will have their own unique combination of motives. Many of these are deeply personal, but the pursuit of something truly challenging often also leads to a richer and deeper connection with ourselves, our communities and the world around us. If that sounds a bit ‘woo woo’, I’ll give you a couple of examples:
- The second ultra-marathon I entered, back in 2019, was the Dukeries 40 miler, organised by the excellent HOBO Pace. In addition to the entry fee, all runners were given a list of food items and toiletries and asked to donate as many as they could afford to a homeless charity in Lincoln. The charity then made sure that, when accommodation was found for someone living on the streets, they didn’t move into a house with empty cupboards. Unexpectedly discovering that the race was giving something so tangible back to my own community (I grew up in Lincoln) was a really powerful, and completely unexpected, motivation.
- One of the big challenges with big distance running is nutrition. If you don’t take on calories during a race, you won’t finish but, if you eat the wrong thing, you can very quickly end up with spectacular stomach problems, often causing a DNF (Did Not Finish, although hopefully also Did Nothing Fatal…). My nutrition planning for May’s race is still a work in progress but, by happy coincidence, I recently did some work for the excellent Punk’d Protein, who have launched a new range of high protein flapjacks and cookies. They were kind enough to send me a sample pack, and I’m a complete convert. Finding a great, locally-made, range of products that I’m now using instead of the (frankly inferior) fare on offer from the big corporates, is something I’m really pleased about, and even more pleased to tell others about. Check them out at https://punkdprotein.co.uk/
So, there you are. Two very different examples which, I think, give a more rounded answer to the “Why?” question. Whatever challenges you take on, there are unexpected and meaningful connections out there waiting to be made.
Instead of “Because it’s there”, perhaps the better answer is “Because experiencing it and there give us a richer connection to us and here”. Although, I have to admit that George Mallory’s answer was much snappier, so perhaps he knew a thing or two after all.