Why We Run: Coffee

I have just sat down at a crowded table in a crowded cafe nestled in center of an even more crowded recreation complex. It’s Sunday morning. I don’t know many of the people milling about in the building or even the cafe, but the table is ringed by chairs full of sweaty people who I’m delighted to call some of my closest friends.

We’ve just run. We’ve just laced up and plodded for some distance, maybe long, maybe short, around the vast suburban sprawl and along the winding, tree-lined asphalt trails and then, eventually, back to the shelter of the glass and steel complex which, as it turns out, was our most honest destination: the coffee purveyor and a crowded cafe in the middle of that very building.

I’ve been asking myself for ten years: why?

Why do I wake up early on Sunday morning and rush towards a long, painful training distance run?

Why do I eagerly lace up after a hard day of work just to climb up and down concrete hill repeats?

Why do I pull on my warm layers of moisture-wicking fabrics and beat down snow covered paths just to accumulate some mileage on an otherwise quiet morning?

But then I find myself at that crowded table, warm coffee in hands, and understand that without the run there remains no excuse.  Without the run I’m am outsider in this group.  Without the run I have not earned the beverage.  So I run, and then I buy my medium-sized paper cup filled to the brim with a nutty, dark roast brew. I pull up a chair… and I take a sip. 

Coffee, it turns out, is one of those social lubricants that eases the distances between groups of people with vast gaps between their personalities. We may slog through the streets together week after week after week, but bring us together around a few wobbly cafe tables and the nuances of those relationships emerge.

Construction workers mash minds with computer scientists. Receptionists relate to elementary school teachers. Retirees sip brew across from university students.

In a world of oh-too-many claustrophobic relationships built inside silos of perception, we run… and then consume hot caffeinated drinks alongside people we’d be otherwise unlikely to encounter.

We run for fitness, but the coffee is the metaphorical whipped cream upon the sundae of strengthening our bodies and shaping up our health.