Filmmaker turns camera on why people run

Ridgefield man will run 6 days a week for a year to see if he can come to like activity

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



o Nick Hagan created a Kickstarter campaign to fund his documentary, "What Are You Running From?" His goal is to raise $4,896. The fundraiser ends at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 30.

o For more information, visit Kickstarter.

o Nick Hagan created a Kickstarter campaign to fund his documentary, “What Are You Running From?” His goal is to raise $4,896. The fundraiser ends at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 30.

o For more information, visit Kickstarter.

Nick Hagan has always wanted to be a runner.

The 34-year-old Ridgefield man has tried, many times, to become a runner. But every time, after about three earnest weeks, he winds up, once again, a nonrunner.

After 10 years of attempts, Hagan began to wonder if there was something fundamentally different between runners and nonrunners. Maybe runners have different brains, he thought. Maybe they’re just wired to like running and Hagan isn’t.

He questioned whether runners are more happy than nonrunners, or if it’s all a scam. Do they really like running, he wondered, or do they just tolerate it in order to be a part of the running community?

“I’m naturally kind of skeptical,” Hagan said.

The filmmaker decided to turn his questions into a documentary exploring running motivations and the growing business of the sport.

At the center of the documentary are Hagan’s own running ambitions. He’s committed to run six days a week for one year to see whether he, too, can become a runner.

“I want to be able to experience what they are,” Hagan said.

Hagan started running at the end of June. Nearly four months in, Hagan said he hasn’t really changed his opinion about running, but he’s warming to it.

“This past weekend, I went for a run and actually enjoyed the experience,” Hagan said Tuesday.

Rather than enjoying the feeling after a run is complete, Hagan said, for the first time, he actually liked the running itself. He suspects that’s because he’s getting more fit and more familiar with his running pace.

When Hagan began running this summer, he could run 3/4 of a mile without stopping. Now, he can go 4 miles at a pace of 10 minutes per mile.

While Hagan runs six days a week, the length of the runs vary. One day, he may walk for 20 minutes and then run 1 mile. The next, he may go for a 4-miler.

He also switches up where he runs. Some days, Hagan sticks to the treadmill. Other days, he runs around his Ridgefield neighborhood or heads out to the Salmon Creek Greenway Trail in Vancouver.

Hagan plans to run a 5K race soon, and hopes to run a 10K near the end of his one-year experiment.

“It seems like a wimpy milestone when you get into the running culture,” said Hagan, adding that he has no marathon or half-marathon aspirations.

But Hagan admits he’s confused by runners’ desires to participate in races they’ll never win. Growing up, Hagan played team sports, such as basketball, football and soccer. He always played to win.

Hagan said he relates to Danny McBride’s character, Kenny Powers, on the HBO show “Eastbound & Down.” When a triathlete says he’s preparing for a race, Kenny Powers, a former professional baseball player, says, “I play real sports, not trying to be the best at exercising.”

“That’s how I feel about runners,” Hagan said.

But as part of his research for the documentary, Hagan has been reading up on running. Through that research, he’s realized many runners compete against themselves — running for personal bests — rather than competing to win.

His running and research has also exposed Hagan to the growing running business — the races, the shoes, the specialty apparel, the energy gels — which he hopes to explore more in his documentary.

For now, Hagan runs in a pair of Nike shoes he already owned, shorts and cotton T-shirts. He also has a long-sleeved shirt and hat for colder days. In a few months, though, he wants to get outfitted in specialty running gear — shirts made of moisture-wicking fabric and running shoes specific to his needs — to see if the gear makes a difference.

Hagan’s documentary is titled “What are you running from?” It will include interviews with runners and running experts. He’s interviewing writers from Runner’s World, leaders of local running groups, professional runners, longtime runners, race organizers, sports psychologists and others.

When the year is complete, Hagan hopes to have a better understanding of why some people are runners and others aren’t. And maybe, just maybe, he will finally be able to consider himself a runner.

“I do feel like something’s missing if I don’t go run,” Hagan said. “I’m liking it more than I’m disliking it.”

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