Reasons to Run, Part Two

July 21, 2006

Last week I had a really dumb idea that I found almost irresistible despite its obvious flaws.

The idea: to enter and attempt to win the White River 50, an extremely hilly 50-mile trail race held near Mount Rainier.

The flaws: I hadn’t been training for this race. No trail runs, no real hill work to speak of, no long runs beyond 18 miles. Also, I’m a “rhythm runner” best suited to the roads, not trails.

So why was I tempted by the race? I think I was under the spell of the movie Cinderella Man, which we saw earlier in the month. It stars Russell Crowe as James J. Braddock, a boxer of the 1920s and ’30s who lifted his family out of poverty with an improbable string of wins over heavily favored opponents. According to the film, Braddock fought not for ego gratification but rather to put food on the table for his wife and three children. Of the many possible reasons to pursue sports seriously, isn’t that one among the noblest of all?

The parallels between my situation and Braddock’s are tenuous at best. I’m not good enough at running to make a living at it — not even close — and Liz and I aren’t in serious financial trouble. Still, I liked the “Cinderella Man” story so much that I wanted to stage my own scaled-down version of it. If I could buck the odds and win the $1,000 first prize at White River, perhaps we could get the house painted!

After two days of inappropriate fantasizing about all this, I finally admitted that my fairy-tale script was unrealistic. An inspirational movie is not an adequate substitute for actual training, especially when the competition includes guys like Phil Kochik. Besides, the Torchlight 8K is the same day as White River, and I hear they’re giving out free plane tickets to the winner….


  1. 13. Running for Heroism ?

  2. I'd say that heroism is mostly covered by the previous list (#5, 10, 11). The reason that wasn't on that list but should be now is "Running for material gain," i.e., prizes. I once was suspicious of the "road whores" who choose races based upon what awards are being offered; now I've become one!

  3. Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.

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