5.18.2011

The Selfish Runner

Running takes strength and determination to overcome physical challenges within yourself and the environment. It is also one of my favorite things to do. I truly believe running makes me a better person so when I am told running is a selfish act, I cringe inside.

After my initial shock to such a statement, I turned to the Internet to gain insight on this outlook on running. I stumbled across an amazing blog, that I now follow, by Chronic Runner and read her post and perspective on the selfishness of running. Click HERE to read it. I felt an immediate connection to this blogger. Perhaps it was the content of the post or perhaps just that the template she used is the one I first selected. I ended up going to bed content and happy.

But it is amazing how sometimes the quiet sleep of the night and the beautiful break of dawn can spur your mind into thought and reflection, even without a run.

Is running selfish?

One of my favorite topics of learning in college was the selfish gene theory, which pretty much puts genes in the driving seat. It is the genes that want to continue, not the plant or animal. Imagine genes taking hold of the outer shell of the organism and compelling activities that benefit only the genes, not the organism as a whole.

The Definition of Selfish: concerned exclusively with oneself, concerned only with one's welfare regardless of others

Based on this evidence, the selfish gene theory is truly a selfish expression but I fail to see how my running falls into the same category.

One may argue that yes, when I am running I am being selfish in that moment. Perhaps that is correct if you twist the definition to include doing an activity that benefits oneself physically, mentally, and emotionally. But when I run I am not only thinking of me. My mind focuses on all aspects of life. It is a time to reflect and become a better citizen. I run to support charitable causes. I run to honor my dad. I run to encourage others to run. In races, I run and think of the other runners and their challenges and successes to make it to race day. I run and think of the volunteers and their dedication of time to cheer the runners on and provide necessary support and course direction. I smile at them. I smile at other runners. Okay, I smile when I have the strength but if I am not smiling on the outside, I am on the inside.

But can running be considered selfish because when I am running I am not fulfilling other domestic duties? 

Perhaps if I were an extremist. But I get up early to run. I run when my daughter naps. I no longer ask my husband to watch my daughter on a regular basis just so I can go running. I don't even leave her with a babysitter when I run. I fit my runs in and when I run with her, she has the option of being pushed in the jogging stroller or me running on the treadmill. And when I run with my daughter, she is not ignored. My earphones are off so I can hear her and yes, at times my answers have to be brief as I am running uphill pushing a stroller. I apologize to her and explain mommy is doing a tough part. Is this selfish? I think not. She sees her mom pushing herself. She sees an active mom balancing work, life, and personal goals. And she is one of the best coaches out there. Just think of the motivation you get as you run uphill pushing a jogging stroller and your daughter asks if you are walking now. Oh my!

If I removed running from my life, yes, I would have more time to do other things but what could I do that isn't selfish if it fulfills a personal interest. If I filled that time with reading, is that selfish? If I filled that time with crocheting, is that selfish? If I fill that time with getting my hair done, manicures, pedicures, is that selfish?

I am a runner. I need to run. Running makes me a better person. I have always been an active person either directly through my employment or pursuing other interests.

I went through an approximate 3-year period of my life where I didn't run or pursue any real activity. It is during this period that depression took hold of me and it took a lot to get me back on track. I have even read from multiple sources that my blood type (O+) compels me to be physical and engage in very active exercise. Running is my stress relief, running is my meditation, running makes me happy.

So if at the end of it all, I am still called selfish. So be it. It is just a label after all but deep within my soul I know running makes me a better person and a better mom. I can only hope that one day my daughter follows in my foot steps and adopts a "selfish act" in her life that compels her to be a better woman, a better citizen.

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