Running As Ritual

Why do humans run?

Evolutionarily, our unique bipedal movement served as transportation and survival. Our legs got us places. If our endurance and primitive tools bested our prey, we ate. If we ran faster than what or who was chasing us, we survived. Fast forward 70,000 years from the Paleolithic period, and the once critical evolutionary adaptations our bodies made for movement have been supplanted by new technologies. Today I can sit at my computer and order food, do “work,” pay my mortgage, and communicate across time and space, all by dancing my fingers across a keyboard. Running has been relegated to the realm of leisure or loathing.

This running as a ritual creates space for a moving meditation. Ultimately, it is a means for furthering our connection to self, place, and others.

There are some, possibly eccentric or potentially unassuming characters for whom echoes of an ancient running practice still resonate. For these runners, a commitment to movement is more than sport and more than an effort to improve one’s corporeal presentation. For these humans running is a ritual that increases our mental and physical capacity to do difficult things. Thus, the very act of running is a protest against an all-too-common inclination toward doing what is easy. By choosing movement, we rage against complacency, embrace suffering, and unlock wisdom reserved for those willing to transgress the norms of ease and comfort. It’s as if the very process of choosing movement unlocks a fundamental connection to a deep and powerful psyche forged in our earliest evolutionary consciousness. 

Panhandle Gap Reflections. Photo by Nick Danielson


In practice, every run begins in the mind—our bodies follow. The legs begin to churn; the arms swing. In motion, the body presents the mind with a dialogue of fatigue, joy, pain, sweat, and breath. The mind receives these messages and determines how to respond. Continue? Walk? Sprint? Crawl? Stop? In movement, this chorus of physical sensations is the lived experience of a mind-body connection. Over miles and time—hours, days, and years—the timbre of these sensations change. The body adapts. The mind learns when to push and when to rest. An understanding and acceptance of individual strengths and weaknesses develops and informs choices of how to care for the body and mind in a holistic and graceful way.

This running as a ritual creates space for a moving meditation. Ultimately, it is a means for furthering our connection to self, place, and others. Each run provides an opportunity to escape external expectations and simply move. Each run invites the runner to be fully present and aware. Each run is a testament to our power and capacity to be agents of change and creation. While none of this directly translates to our survival, each run is an act of living.

Welcome to the tribe. 

Abram Dickerson is the owner/principal at Aspire Adventure Running. As a husband, father, and entrepreneur, he attempts to live his life with intention and purpose. He loves mountains and the friendships that result from the suffering and satisfaction of running, skiing, and climbing in wild places.

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