I began running in the form of track in the eighth grade. I, unfortunately, was sick on the day of sign ups and was automatically put in the two mile race where no one wanted to be and where there was plenty of space for me. Initially I hated the “long distance” (only considered long distance in the context of track & field) but in the fall of my eighth grade year I somehow found myself surrounded by a bunch of sleepy eyed cross country runners. I wasn’t good. I finally improved enough by the end of middle school to justify trying out for the sport in high school and I wasn’t good at any other sport anyways. However, when I arrived for tryouts I found that really there was no such thing. Running was a place where people go when they are either made for running or aren’t made for anything else and so we had no tryouts. What we did have was an abundance of runners at various levels. I was a slow freshman. We worked out very early, often before the sun rose. My coach was very skilled at her job and I credit her to this day for helping me to learn how to run better. I slowly improved and by the end of my first high school season I was actually enjoying the sport, my team, and making vast improvements in race time. Running is something I came to love very much. My favorite races ended up being the mile in track because of the swiftness of it and how you can also feel your competition at your heels and the half marathon or long trail runs. Unfortunately, during my freshman year at college in a fit of youthful over zealousness I ran a succession of half marathons (maybe 2 or 3) then a 16 mile trail run all within a month or two of each other and ended up injuring myself. At the present moment I cannot run much or far but it is a long term goal of mine to recover and enjoy running again.
To explain my running in Tinbergen’s terms:
- Historical (Evolutionary): I believe this is somewhat straight forward. Humans adapted bipedal motion and then running so that they could better hunt prey for survival and reproduction. We don’t have to run to hunt now but we are able to run for incredibly long distances. I believe ultra-marathoners run more than 100 miles at a time illustrating that we could run for very long distances if needed.
- Proximal: I had to join a sport or take a physical education class in the state and city where I lived and I was loathe to take P.E. in high school. That is why I decided to run track and cross country. I knew I would never be good enough to make it in high school volley ball and basketball which are relatively competitive in my area. So I joined the reject sport and it turned out alright.
- Developmental: Joining the team also served a social purpose in my life. It makes sense to me that the school practically forces kids into organized sports, band, or something else. Being part of a team certainly was important to my high school experience and was probably the best part of it.
- Functional (physiological): Need I say it? Runners high! I’m actually not sure what this sensation is supposed to feel like because I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced it. I can say that after waking up at 5am and running we all certainly felt better. We were happier than most people are at 5, 6 or 7 in the morning. Our metabolisms seemed to be good and our appetites were certainly stronger.