According to an article published in the widely acclaimed scientific journal Nature, there is evidence of humans running over 2 million years ago. Our reasons for running back then were a lot simpler than they are now. When we first developed our ability to run, it was out of necessity for survival. It allowed us to chase down prey to feast on high energy fats and proteins to support our large brains. Fast forward to 2020 and the world is a very different place. We no longer need to run in order to eat and it is not a necessity for our survival. So the big question remains; why do people run?
Everyone’s motivation for running comes from a different place that is individual to that person. In a study completed by STRAVA where they surveyed 25,000 runners on running motivation, four themes emerged.
"Most people’s motivation is not confined just to one reason, but a combination of these above factors."
There are more articles than I could read in a lifetime on the benefits of running for the health of a person. These include physical health benefits such as lowering all-cause mortality, decreasing rates of cardiovascular disease and improvements in muscle and brain function. The mental health benefits of running are also profound and act as a huge motivator for athletes who have experienced anxiety, depression and the stress of the busy lifestyles we lead.
Running with other people and the social aspect of running is a large motivator for a lot of people. Sharing a tough experience with your friends that you are able to overcome together and then sharing in food or coffee afterwards is a rewarding experience. Interestingly of the 25,000 runners surveyed, post-run food and drink was the second most loved part of running apart from the finish line!
Personal growth, self actualisation, connection to nature and setting goals is a deeper level of motivation than a lot of us actually realise. The deeper motivation is so individual and can range from getting that dopamine hit to the brain when achieving that big goal you set for yourself to enjoying those solo runs out of the trails and embracing the serenity that nature can provide.
Humans are creatures of habit and having a routine gives people a sense of control over their lives. When people are going through tumultuous times in their lives, it is important to have something stable and reliable that can give a sense of calm and control.
Personally my motivation lies in the personal growth and community that running can provide. It helps you understand your limits both physically and mentally, improves your discipline and allows you to connect with people who have very similar mindsets. If you are able to connect with your own motivators and refer back to these when times get tough, it is easier to maintain your consistency and actually enjoy your running!