|The Joy of Running|
Recently, sitting at the base of a small rise covered with foot high beach grass, thirty feet above the wide flat sand leading to the surf, I watched runners passing by. Barefoot runners, pairs of runners, solo runners, runners pulling or being pulled by their dogs, runners with fast fluid styles, runners with awkward form. Some ran backward for a while or did cross-legged scissors down the beach. Some seemed to run in poetic slow motion. Some glided across the wet sand in fluid forms of perpetual motion, without tempo. I saw ponytails bobbing and gleaming, sweaty scalps, baseball caps and, oh yeah, even a tye-dyed headband. Mild, steady waves rolled in, seagulls and crows cruised and played in the wind above me. The sun took its time sinking toward the western horizon. The western edge of the American continent was bathed in light filtered through a soft marine haze. And, the runners kept passing back and forth along that mercurial line between land and sea.
Running has been my life. Thirty-five years of running has kept me grounded in its joy and freedom. Thirty years of producing running events has kept running at the core of my life and has done much to challenge its joy and freedom. I have enjoyed the business of running, welcomed never-ending challenges and, at times, it has knocked the wind out of me. While there are a few moments just after the start of every race when I am still captivated by the undulating flow of runners en masse, I also see that the purest joy of running is in individual runners personal joy and freedom.
When I run in my dreams I wake up happy and full of energy. When I grapple with race management phantoms in my dreams, I wake up anxious and exhausted. I believe that we come together as runners, at races, to collectively celebrate our private running joy. It’s my job as a race director to make that work. My greatest reward is happy runners at the finish. My motivation comes, however, from reaching into my cache of personal joy stored over tens of thousands of miles run, filled with that unparalleled sense of strength and freedom that running creates.
To the runners at Ocean Beach, on the trails in Golden Gate Park, in the Presidio, on Land’s End and Crissy Field, and to all the runners on all the lonely backloads, quiet streets and trails across America and around the world, know that no one can take away your joy. Hold onto it. Let that joy sustain you, as it has me, even when running in your dreams is all that’s left. And, yes, share your joy at the next race you attend.