Monday, September 05, 2016

TM Speech: Born to Run (Yes, there's some running content)

Dearest Readers,

I have recently given some speeches in connection with my Toastmasters International membership. Some are related to running, and some are not. When possible, I will publish the speeches. This is one of them.

Born to Run

I sat straight up in bed, laughing uncontrollably. My wife was startled, and asked what the heck was going on. This was unusual behavior for me. I had been reading “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, and I’d come to the part about the scientists trying to chase down an antelope in order to prove a theory. The theory was that humans had evolved to run by chasing down prey.  The scientists were also runners, and that certainly helped, but the experiment didn’t work; the antelopes being singled out and separated for hunting kept circling back to the herd in order to become lost in the crowd. I found this so amusing because the dumb animals kept outsmarting those brainy humans. 

I want to tell you some more about this theory, about some of my own running experiences, and most importantly, why I want you to run.

The book became a best seller when it was published in 2009. There are several themes and stories, including a case for the use of minimalist running shoes, background about the Tarahumara tribe of runners in Mexico’s Copper Canyon, and quirky American untrarunners. The story culminates with a secret race between the top American ultramarathoners and the best Tarahumara runners.

I want to focus on the theory put forth about human beings evolving to run in order to chase down their meals. Persistence hunting theories abound. They postulate that early humans, who have so few natural predation features – no protective fur, no claws, no sharp teeth – began to use our superior endurance to run an animal to exhaustion. 

Nearly every animal anywhere near our size can run faster than we can. No creature – not even a horse, can run as long as we can. We have big butts, forward facing eyes, heads that remain steady on our shoulders and a cardiovascular and respiratory system second to none.  We’re built to run long distances. And we truly are capable of running an animal down until it drops. Our scientists were not overly deterred by their initial failure. They were eventually able to discover a primitive tribe in Africa’s Kalahari Desert that continues to hunt this way.

Not all anthropologists agree with the theory, but none can dispute the fact that our physical characteristics do make us efficient long distance runners.

We are all runners. Some of us do it daily, some not so much anymore. Nearly all of us did it when we were kids. Here are some reasons why I think I was born to run.

I eat like a horse. People that know me say, he’ll run it off. They’re partially correct about that. They also say that that’s the reason I run – so I can eat. But they’re wrong about that.

My BP is 105 over 60. My resting heart rate is in the 50s. My cholesterol numbers are good, especially the good cholesterol which is excellent. My blood glucose levels are also fine. The health benefits of running are huge, and they’re well proven. But that’s not why I run.

I am able to claim some pretty good accomplishments – running 100 miles, completing over 100 marathons, qualifying for and running Boston 10 times. But as proud I am of these things, and as much as I like to brag, that’s not why I run.

Why do I run, you wonder? I’m glad you asked!

I’m competitive by nature – mostly with myself. I like to constantly challenge myself with new and difficult goals. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. I also enjoy competing with others (sometimes by age group), but I recognize that I can only control (to a point) what I can do, not what others can do. And I prefer to remain friends with those I race against, as much as I also want to beat them. Regardless of any accomplishments I may be able to claim later, one of the reasons I run is the challenge – to defy what others may consider limits. I run to push boundaries.

These competitors, and others that I simply like to meet and run with, have managed to become some of my best friends. In fact, family notwithstanding, runners are some of the best people I know. I run for friendship and camaraderie. 

I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to run in wonderful locations all over the world. I’ve run in dozens of States, I’ve run on every inhabited continent, and I’ve run in hundreds of places in between. Some of the locations have been incredibly scenic, others merely serene. When I ruminate on this, it’s the quiet serenity that I appreciate most. I run for serenity.


I’ve told you about myself. I’ve managed these accomplishments, made many lifetime, lasting friends, and enjoyed the experience of running in all these wonderful places. Yes, I’ve been fortunate, but yet I’m about as ordinary as you can get. I could go on about how average and commonplace I am, but I’ll spare you. I mention this, because you may think that you could never do some of these types of things. But you can!

You were born to run. If I can inspire even one of you who haven’t been getting out to get outside and do it, or possibly get one of you who does run to get out more and enjoy it more, I’ll consider this speech an enormous success.
You can do this!

There are many ways to get started.

Try an app, like couch to 5k. These work for a lot of people.
Join a club, or otherwise meet up with like-minded folks. Nothing is as effective in getting yourself out the door than having to meet someone at a specified time and place.
Sometimes we can lose our focus and motivation. Don’t overthink it. Just pick a direction – hopefully a safe, and maybe a scenic one – and go!

Once you do begin, you can start to challenge yourself. Set personal goals – one at a time if necessary. It’s like sex. The more you do it, the better you get. And the better you get, the more you enjoy it. By all means, be patient; you’ve got your whole life to do this, and again, like sex, it’s best not to rush it.

There is no goal is too lofty. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and I’m living proof. After all, you were born to run.

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