“Mario, why do you run?”

Now, just how many times have we heard this question?!? Because people who don’t run just can’t understand what pushes us to put our trainers on and get outside.  In the heat of the summer, in the snow or torrential rain, after a hard day at work or in the morning as soon as you get up with still-bleary eyes…

Why do we run? Why do people like us run? What makes us do it?

I asked myself the same question the first time I went out “jogging”. It wasn’t a choice, it was an obligation.


Until 2001 I was the classic “typical Italian sportsman”, five-a-side football and a remote control.  Friendlies once a week, no training, no preparation, no technique, no restraint.  No attention, above all on the part of our opponents. One kick and my cruciate ligament was gone…and a year passed before I decided to get it fixed.  So I had the operation, followed by a long and intensive rehabilitation.  I had six months where I could do almost nothing, with one leg that had no strength, no musculature, no flexibility.  And I was going on like this, dreaming of once more kicking a ball about.  And then finally the orthopedic surgeon said, “Ok, from next week you need to work on getting back complete mobility, let’s start with some running in the park.” And it was in this way, the first time I went running, I did so just because I was forced to.  And I accepted it only because I wanted to get back to playing football at any cost.

Wearing what I thought were suitable shoes (!) and a cotton shirt, I went out.  Two circuits of the local park, less than 2km.  An annoying metallic taste in my mouth after all the effort, 15 minutes of running and one single thought during every single one of those 15 minutes: “But how do people manage to run for more than 10 minutes? Whatever do they think about?  Whatever makes them do it?”

And it was like that every time that I went back, twice a week, for a full month.  An immense mental battle, but I wanted to get back to playing football.  Every time it was a battle with myself, but every time I ran an extra few metres, or an extra minute.  Today two circuits, tomorrow two and a half; this time up to that lamppost, the next time up to the fourth lamppost, Sunday not 20 minutes but 25.  And so it went on.  It was difficult every single time, very difficult.  But I wanted to play football again, I couldn’t give up.  Metre after metre, how many kilometeres did I manage to run in a single session after one month?  I don’t know, but I knew one thing.  I couldn’t do without my twice-weekly run.  I had gone through what I call “the step”.

When you start running for the first time, you don’t see it, but it is there somewhere.  And you don’t even see it as you pass it.  It appears clear and bold only when you skip your training session for some reason: it is a bitter sensation, a sensation of something missing, a lack of something, like when you went to school knowing that you hadn’t done your homework.  Deep down, you felt guilty.  Once you go past “the step” you can’t go back, you can’t do anything other than put on your shoes and go out running.  If you don’t do it, you miss it.  You no longer count the kilometres or the lampposts hoping that you get to the end, but how many more you manage to do than the last time in the same time.  You learn to love the suffering.  Yes, it is hard work to get to “the step”, but that is the trick of learning how to fully appreciate the pleasure of running.  You get there and go past.  You need a reason. I’d say a strong reason that first gets you out of the house.  I wanted to play football again.

The moral in other words is:run.  Find a reason – whatever you want – but run.

Get up off the couch and run.  Run as little as you want, as slow as you want, but run.

For Pheidippides, RUN!!!!

I guarantee you satisfaction.


Well, now and again I still find that I don’t feel like running.  Then I think about those who would like to, but can’t.  And I put my shoes on.

Not my football boots…

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