Sunday, October 21, 2012

Are runners masochists or hedonists?

Runners love to brag about how hard it is.  "My legs were killing me!"  "Can you believe how hot it was?"  "I totally hit the wall."  We glory in the pain, and the more pain, the more glory.  For many of us an easy three mile run would be boring.  But if that three miles were on a track, doing repeat 400's at near-sprint pace without full recovery in between, then we are interested.  It isn't just that we see the pain as a necessary requirement to reaching our potential; we enjoy the pain for it's own sake.  Some might even see it as the ultimate goal.  There is a word for this; masochism.

But running also has many pleasures.  You get the endorphin rush that comes from going fast, and the mellow bliss that follows a hard workout.  You feel the wind as it brushes over your bare skin, and the thrill of moving fast on your own power.  You bask in the majestic scenery of a rugged trail run deep in the mountains, and, let's face it, the equally beautiful view of being in the company of other runners who are thin, fit, and spandex clad.  Running is very sensual.  This love of pleasure also has a name; hedonism.

So which are we?  Do we love the pain or do we love the pleasure?  I used to be firmly in the former category.  The idea of pushing beyond my limits and enduring extreme suffering for some worthy goal seemed romantic to my adolescent sensibilities.  But as I've grown up and mellowed out a little, I think I've moved more to the latter category.  I genuinely enjoy the sensation of running, and I see it more as a relaxing, meditative pursuit than as an avenue to prove myself through self-flagellation.

Maybe masochism and hedonism aren't truly separate desires.  Maybe they stem from a more fundamental desire to just want to feel something, anything, good or bad.  What do you think?  Feel free to comment, I'd love to hear some other perspectives.


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  2. Runners are masochists. END