I’ve been going on “adventures” – long and exciting trips to the furthest reaches of the planet — since I was 21 and have loved every minute of it. There’s something about the remoteness, the inaccessibility and the grind of such journeys that is almost impossible to experience from any other situation.
I found I couldn’t go on too many big adventures anymore since I got a job in the big city; heading off the map on big trips for months on end was no longer an option. So, what happens when you have responsibilities that prevent you from adventuring?
Well, surprisingly, I’ve found going for a simple run is the closest approximation to travelling to the ends of the Earth. Here are my top eight reasons why running is a top sport for aspirant and recovering adventurers alike.
Running requires the exciting challenge of planning
Big trips are logistically arduous. To be successful you must plan routes, flights, logistic providers, food, the list goes on and on. Some people hate this hassle and would rather have someone else do the arranging for them, but adventurers tend to love the challenge. Running offers a very similar creative outlet: on a macro level, there are training calendars, race schedules and nutrition plans, right down to timing your miles and planning when to make that big move in a race. Running is a game of tactics and organisation, just like adventure.
Running opens your eyes to places you wouldn’t see otherwise
Setting out on 20-mile run will allow you to see things you’ve never seen before, even if you’ve lived in the area for 20 years. The sheer distance covered on foot, and not in a car or by public transport, means there’s a great opportunity to connect with the environment you are passing through, just like you would on any journey to another country. It’s the perfect way to open your eyes and see a side of the world you never normally would.
The success of running comes from hard graft
As with anything worth doing, running requires effort and commitment to get the most out of the sport, just like adventure. To succeed, you need to put the hours in, work hard, and only then do you see the results. Whether that’s finally emerging from the depths of jungle crossing, or surging ahead in the last 100 metres of a 10-mile race.
You meet some amazing people whilst running
When you have a mission and you’re vocally sharing it, you’ll be amazed at the number of people you meet who will share that same aspiration. Some of my best friendships have come from adventures and from running partners — like minded individuals who are just as dedicated as I am to working hard and pulling off their ambitions.
Running can still take you around the world
Adventures can take you around the world, but so can running. From the searing heat of the Sahara desert in Marathon des Sables, the insane Tor Des Geants across the Alps, to the streets of Pyongyang or even Afghanistan; wherever you want to go, there’ll be a running race ready for you to enter that doesn’t mean giving up your responsibilities.
Running keeps you fit for your next adventure
Running can be painful and challenging, but the sport keeps you physically fit enough for any adventure you may get the chance to go on and trains your body for any journey ahead. Expeditions and voyages to far off places can be filled with extreme conditions, heat, hunger, exertion — running trains up your willpower and, by doing so, allows you to handle much more than the average traveller could put up with.
Running trains your mind and helps you think about time
Time can be quite elastic, and anyone who’s been on an adventure will tell you about how sometimes it goes by lighting quick and other times, completely slows to a crawl. Running is the only medium I know that lets you play with this concept. Go for a three-mile run and it can seem like an eternity, go for a 26-mile run and three miles will seem it passed in a heartbeat. Running trains your mind as well as your body, and you’ll be surprised at what extreme lengths of downtime or waiting you’ll be able to put up with mentally, once you’ve started running.
Running changes your frame of mind
Lastly, running – like adventure – changes your frame of mind. You’ll soon start to take a different view of the world, one unencumbered by the daily worries over the little things. Exercising on a regular basis can boost self-esteem and confidence, and, according the NHS, may be a more effective treatment for mild depression than antidepressants.
Running can be life affirming; try it and find out for yourself.
Jamie Maddison is running 100 miles over an uncrossed desert in Kazakhstan this September, supported by the Christopher Ward Challenger Programme. To follow his journey, please visit the https://www.christopherward.co.uk/jamie-maddison.