My running carrot

I just finished reading The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running by English journalist Adharanand Finn.

He travels to Japan and visits a monastery where monks run a thousand marathons in a thousand days in search of spiritual enlightenment; and trains with university and corporate teams who compete in the lucrative and prestigious ekiden - a long distance run covered by a team rather than an individual.

He surmises that the team environment of the ekiden encourages competitors to beyond what they could as an individual, and vows to test this theory. But...

Finn finally manages to get a team off the ground for a race scheduled just days before his return to England, to test this theory.

The race is snowed out. He doesn't get to experience the ekiden. He's disappointed. His reaction is this piece of prose, which really captures my running motivation. My carrot.

Why do we need the worldly construct of a race? What purpose does it fulfil? It is the completion of a goal, sure, but wasn't that goal only ever a mechanism to get us out running? Those days of training are not wasted if we don't run the race. If you miss your exam at the end of a course, it doesn't mean you haven't learned anything. If anything, perhaps the race is what stops us from ever seeing this essential truth. Perhaps our focus on completing the race distracts us, so we never see or understand why we run. When the race is taken away at the last moment, however, we're left hanging in this empty, charged space where the questions begin to arise. Why *do* I run? And in the quiet pause, we know the answer. In every training run, we fill ourselves with the experience of life, the air rushing through our lungs, our  hearts pounding. Maybe the thought of the race gets us out the door, but it is only ever the carrot that dangled before us. Sometimes we don't get to eat the carrot, we already know that. And even when we do, it is only ever a fleeting moment of satisfaction. Even if we break our best times, or win the race, a few days later we're lacing up again. Like the Daigoyoman Ajari who said enlightenment wasn't an end, but just another step on a lifelong journey, the race is not the end we hold it up to be. Whatever happens, the next day, we need to start all over again.

So, what's your running carrot? Racing, time goals, or just the joy of running?

I drew this carrot. :-)

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