What do these people have in common?
- A three-year-old girl running awkwardly to her mother across the lawn while smiling.
- A housewife, age 43, trotting in the park with her colorful running shoes.
- A skinny boy of 15 trying to keep up with the pack in a cross-country race, hoping to be part of the team.
- A 29-year-old teacher who walks to the starting line with his wife, two children and a picnic basket and welcomes his opponents with great pleasure.
- Far behind the front riders, soundly defeated, a solitary rider gives the maximum, excited because he is beating his personal best.
- A nuclear physicist, 39 years old, passing the finish line and trotting to 36th place, quite pleased with himself.
In the first description the young girl is running for the pure joy of moving. She can be compared to a young dog chasing a ball or a foal galloping in a pasture. This pleasure from the kinesthetic sensation of speed, power and natural freedom is wild and intrinsic. Her motivation is being present in the moment and embracing the joy of freedom and movement.
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Humanity has indeed evolved. Although we're not so fast on two legs as most of the large animals with four, these animals in most instances are running for their lives or to catch their dinner; their motivation is survival. Anyone who enjoys running as part of her physical exercise routine knows the pleasure experienced during a run.
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Ask any of the great runners what their main motivation is behind continuing to run, and they will all give a similar story to of "being competitive and enjoying the challenge of the race itself" or "running gives me a sense of freedom no other type of exercise or sport provided." Case in point is Ron Clarke (who was in his day an outstanding distance runner), who once said, "I have a total pleasure to run 100 miles a week. If it was not the case, I would not do it."
Our overall wellness or well-being is not strictly tied to whether or not we engage in the activity of running, but we can use this sport as a great example for how embracing what provides us pleasure in sport can support our overall health and wellness. Worldwide there are thousands of people who run for fun. And when they run, they run like the young girl previously mentioned: with an absolute joy. A child can naturally run as a part of any game in which she's engaged. My three year old is a runner at heart. He truly runs because he loves to move. He watches his feet hit the ground, he turns to see the trees on either side of him flash by or catch a glimpse of his reflection in the glass. His motivation is having the ability to move independent of needing assistance from another. Being a little older, his motivation will include the challenge behind the game as the games will include more formality like playing tag or other impromptu races. Later it will include physical wellness to enhance his ability within traditional sports such as basketball, football, rugby, hockey, etc. As adults, our games are reasonable and mostly our motivation is for improved health and physical wellness with a hint of competitiveness.