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The Selfish Runner

SYNONYMS for SELFISH:  inconsiderate, uncharitable, thoughtless 

self-regarding, self-seeking, self-serving

The other day when I was driving I was coming up to an intersection and one of the lanes was blocked by a long flat bed trailer. It was a two lane street so the traffic was flowing in one direction and the cars coming the other way were at a standstill. My lane was moving and it was clear to me that someone was going to have to stop to let some of the cars coming the other way have a turn. So I stopped. And as the cars in the other lane started to drive in to our lane and around the trailer the guy behind me sped out around my car, laying on his horn and giving me the finger. He bullied his way into the open lane, forcing the oncoming cars to stop, also giving them the finger as he drove half way up on the curb to get by. At a time when the world is in such upheaval this every-man-for-himself display was just kind of disheartening. As I drove away I had two thoughts:  How in the world was he flipping us off, honking his horn, and managing some pretty technical driving all at the same time?  AND then this thought:  Now that's selfish.

Funny enough, right before that happened I had been driving along thinking about this idea that just does not sit right with me, an idea I have heard from a number of people since I started this runners life 5 1/2 years ago:  Running is Selfish. It came up again during a discussion at the running camp I attended when we were talking about what is it that gets in the way of our goals, starting with what we tell ourselves is in the way, but then really digging down another level or two to what is really, really in the way: the belief that our running life, this life that we love, is inherently selfish. 

And I'd like to clear that up. 

This isn't an easy idea to unravel, which is probably why I've been thinking about it and trying to write this post for the past four weeks. And after many iterations, I scrapped everything and here's where I've landed:  You bet your ass it's selfish. And I hereby invite you to find your own selfish endeavor because, by god, it will likely change your life in such miraculous ways. 

The lane hogger in my story was selfish in the one dimensional way that we define selfish:  someone who is constantly thinking of themselves, usually at the expense of others, with a careless regard of what it will cost other people. I'm sorry, but that is not what running is. It might be who an individual runner can be (but I'm going to bet they are few, and I'd be willing to bet all of my beloved running gear that the lane hogging guy is NOT a runner!) But running itself? No, when I walked into that gym and consequently began running, that was me finally regarding myself as much as I regard other people. That was me seeking my life, as much as I am there for other people. That was me not serving other people at my own expense. 

When we regard ourselves, seek to know ourselves, and serve ourselves we become healthier, stronger, kinder people, in my opinion. We become people who absolutely live our lives by taking up the time and the space and the resources we need, and we want that same abundance for everyone around us. And we have the internal resources to give. 

You know that old tried and true metaphor about putting on your own oxygen mask before you help the people around you put on theirs?  Is that a selfish act?  Sure it is. And please do that. Please go out in the world or inside yourself and find your oxygen mask. I am going to venture a guess that I have made a more positive impact on the people in my life in the past five years than I did in the previous fifty, and not because I'm spending more time with them but because I am spending time running--running, and reading about running, and writing about running, and studying running, and watching running. At the very least my selfish, radical desire to be who I am here to be and to be the best Diane I can be has set me free. And when we set ourselves free we don't hold other people hostage, so they can choose to be free too. And if they get mad at me for running maybe it's just because it's a little scary to take up their own life in the same way. Maybe we have so thoughtlessly demonized putting ourselves first, that we are willing to risk not pursuing a dream and even willing to not taking care of ourselves for the fear of being called selfish.

Running changed my life, and running made me better. I take responsibility for my actions. I'm grittier. I'm stronger inside and out. I want to give, I don't feel like I have to give to earn my worth. I have accessed that fire deep within me again and I am hopeful enough to believe that it matters because the world really needs us all to do that. 

And I know how to wait for my turn on busy roads.

So no defending or excusing or reframing it anymore: I am Diane. And I am a Selfish Runner.