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Why running is not a selfish sport

One incredible quote from Canadian marathoner Reid Coolsaet puts it all into perspective

Boxing Day 10-Miler
Boxing Day 10-Miler
Photo: Reid Coolsaet/Instagram.

It’s been said running is a selfish endeavour; that in order to see what you’re really made of, you must spend a great deal of time focused on your training, your recovery and, in pretty much every other sense, yourself. True, it does take a lot time and energy to pursue the sport, but I think as runners we can let go of any notion of it being selfish. There’s something larger at play through those many miles spent away from other areas of our lives.

A recent quote from Canadian Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet got me thinking about how the time we invest in ourselves as runners has an invaluable return–not only to ourselves, but everyone in our lives.

As part of a social media campaign leading into the Boston Marathon next month, sponsor John Hancock has been Tweeting quotes from elite runners and qualifiers as a way of getting fans familiarized with the athletes and excited for the race. When this quote from Coolsaet was posted a few days ago it caught the attention of some the greatest runners in world, including Americans Shalane Flanagan and Dathan Ritzenhein, along with Canadian greats Krista Duchene (who’s also running Boston this year) and Lanni Marchant.

Coolsaet’s words are resonating with the pros and with runners across the board, including myself. I think in large part because it’s simply true; when a runner commits to training, puts in the work and see results–it’s empowering in other areas of our lives. There comes an assurance that with a positive attitude, solid work ethic, and the ability and willingness to think through situations logically, we can handle whatever comes our way.

So, in what ways does this indicate the sport is not a selfish endeavour? From what I know of my experience running, the discipline involved with training provides important structure, and sense of purpose in my life–I thrive with clear goals in mind. Running is a challenging sport, with many variables at play, especially when pushing your body to find its potential. I’ve been through many moments of doubt and frustration, but many more moments of joy. Through it all I’ve learned how to keep perspective, and focus on my big-picture goals–an important ability to have in all areas of life. As Coolsaet alludes to in his quote, because I’ve weathered the ups and downs of training I’m in a better position to come through the ups and downs of life–with strength, perspective and, hopefully, grace.

Simply put, I’m a better person with running in my life because it allows me to be me. Since I began running three years ago my life has improved immeasurably; I’m happier, I’m fulfilled, I’m in rhythm with myself, I feel joy, and the list goes on. Sure, this may sound like a lot of “me, me, me,” but it’s important to note that me at my best, isn’t solely beneficial – it’s just as important to the other people in my life. I can say with confidence that I don’t run only for myself–I run because it allows me to bring my best into the world–and I believe many runners would say the same of themselves.