Why I run

I enjoy running for a number of reasons. I like to maintain an active lifestyle, I find it important to be outside regularly, I aim to keep my body healthy, and I am fascinated by optimizing and improving. But for me, running is more than just something physical.

A number of years ago I realized I’d grown up with the fear of failure. It’s grown to be a part of me, I carry it with me wherever I go. It runs deep. Rationally and theoretically I know all the arguments against this fear, but still it influences the way I make decisions and the goals I set or don’t. It took years for me to realize that deep down I was struggling with this. But discovering this fear didn’t mean I was instantly freed from it, or that my life had somehow suddenly changed.

Some 3 years ago I started running. I’d been doing strength training for years, but that abruptly ended when one night I fell off my bicycle and broke my wrist. Arm in a cast for three weeks. Strength training wasn’t an option anymore. Even after my arm was released from the cast it would take months until I could lift any proper weights with it again. A week into this handicap and I already greatly missed the outlet of strength training. Not being able to train made me crazy, and the frequent walks I now took provided no fulfilling substitute. Months without training? I was already getting a little edgy.
They say a man is capable of change when the pain of his current situation outweighs the effort required to make the step into the unknown… I said farewell to my beloved strength training and without proper experience signed myself up for the unthinkable distance of a half marathon in a few months. I desperately needed something to look forward to. The idea of reinstating that active lifestyle and working towards a clear goal gave me comfort, even though running that distance was unfathomable. I ran my first run of 2,5k with the cast still in place (not recommended, but I wanted it that badly). Three weeks passed and the cast got removed. I continued to run, upping my runs to 3km, to 3,5km and 4km.

I still remember the first time I ran 10k. I left the front door feeling like was embarking on a trip around the world. My brain couldn’t grasp the concept of running such a distance. So many things could happen, so much could go wrong along the way! And who was I to do this?
In hindsight that sunny afternoon provided the perfect circumstances, but I was a little scared. Sure enough though, one hour later I found myself home again with those 10kms in my pocket. At first I believed it was impossible, but now I’d done it! And I was still breathing. So while I resumed normal life and shorter training runs, I kept wondering if I was capable of doing more. 10k became 11k and then 12k. I ran into an inspiring conversation at a wedding, where someone from the military told me about his training. The next day that inspiration helped me to for once not be overcautious and overprotective, but to listen to that small voice inviting me to discover what was possible. Taking my friends and myself by surprise, I ran 20k from out of the blue. Shortly after that, covid cancelled that planned half marathon. But it was my long term goal, so I just ran one myself, and finished it without any problems.

I began to believe I had something to offer. It felt strange to dream of accomplishments bigger than those of my friends, so I worked silently on those dreams and mostly kept them to myself. But I kept pushing my limits, and within a few months I cashed in the dream of running a full marathon. When you lack proper knowledge and gear and you run the full 4h25 holding your phone in your hand, your friends will laugh at you hard. But that didn’t matter, because I’d reached my goal.
In the days that followed, a friend anonymously sent me a phone holder (bless you, L) and I read about the strangest thing: there are people who run distances greater than a marathon. I immediately felt drawn to the stories of Rich Roll, who rewrote the recipe for his unhealthy and unfulfilling lifestyle, slowly transforming into an athlete whose accomplishments were unparalleled. I absorbed the stories like a sponge and started gathering knowledge. Then a Sunday in August birthed my first ultra (53k). My phone battery died halfway so I ran the last half in silence and decided it was time to buy a sports watch. That winter my second ultra (60k) still didn’t prove to be the end of the journey. But the picture has been painted, and by now you can feel the personal thread running through this story.

How do you live when you don’t have much self-confidence? How do you take on a challenge when you always see the obstacles on the way, but you’ve never learned to choose for what gets you excited, or for what (watch out, dangerous word) is your passion? I wasn’t used to act on passions or feelings. I was used to act normal, to make rational and responsible choices. But this time I was listening to that feeling of enthusiasm. That led to a slight bit of progress, combined with a little confirmation of talent and personality, and ultimately to a small growth in self-confidence. Small steps was something I could handle. And together those small steps led to accomplishments many people would say are unimaginable. But in concert with the physical growth, my way of thinking also changed.

Your thoughts are with you all day, and they shape the way you make your choices. A small change in your thought patterns will be with you everywhere you go, in every role you take on, the attitude with which you view problems and challenges. In my personal life, the lessons I’ve learned from running create ripples in other areas of my life. I feel more courage to face complex problems at work, instead of sending people through to more experienced colleagues. I find it just a little bit easier to say what I stand for in front of my friends. I have more confidence in my capacities to collect new knowledge or to learn a new skill: ‘I can probably learn and master this’. For me, the lessons from training are connected to the transition from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I cherish this, and I hope to keep expanding it for the rest of my life.

Running has a healing effect on my entire life. And just like I found motivation in the stories of other athletes, maybe we can motivate each other by sharing our own stories. Maybe I can pass on some of the inspiration I found in the lessons I’ve learned from training. Because this blog describes my adventures in sports, but secretly it’s about a lot more.

Good to have you reading along. Welcome to my journey!

Upcoming races:

Dutch Backyard Ultra
Leersum
March 8, 2024

Blog archive:

The dip
Sept 13, 2023

Fear
July 16, 2023

The people that surround you
June 17, 2023

The beauty of racing
Apr 26, 2023

Ready, fire, aim
Apr 4, 2023

Race prep
Mar 12, 2023

Thinking too small
Feb 20, 2023

Permission to not achieve
Feb 1, 2023

Why I run
Jan 1, 2023


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4 responses to “Why I run”

  1. Matthias Dc Avatar
    Matthias Dc

    wat leuk om je verhaal te kunnen lezen !
    kijk uit naar het vervolg !
    Matthias

  2. Toine Egberts Avatar
    Toine Egberts

    Yeah, running sets you free. I am really curious what you will feel the joy of trail runs on single tracks and especially sky races. My guess is that it will broaden your experience in another dimension. A nice intermediate start could be the Cauberg trail Valkenburg, March 2023.

  3. Jeroen Houwen Avatar
    Jeroen Houwen

    Very nice to read your story Harm. Curious about the following posts.

  4. Coen van Voorthuysen Avatar
    Coen van Voorthuysen

    Hoi Harm,
    Leuk je verhaal te horen bij Loopleip, vooral de herinnering aan de Backyard Ultra in Doorn afgelopen jaar waar ik ook meeliep. We hebben nog een leuk gesprek gehad tijdens een rondje over voeding, ademhaling en koud dippen. Overigens heb ik de 80 K gehaald daar, een pr voor mij. Succes met de Spartathlon! Je kunt het!
    Groeten Coen

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