WHY I RUN: DAN LAWSON
BY Ben Hooke
We loved meeting Dan Lawson. He embodies the sort of person we want to spend time with. Someone who loves running, and loves the planet. So much so, what was originally going to be one blog has been split into two. We couldn't whittle it down. This is part one all about why he runs. When we say the words "accomplished ultra runner"... He’s run Land’s End to John O’Groats and holds one of the fastest known times for that distance, he's represented GB, turned down the opportunity to represent GB too, won the Grand Union Canal Race, and holds the record for longest distance covered in a 24-hour ultra in India.
This is why he runs - and, at one point, why he didn’t:
When did you first start running?I was quite good at running when I was younger. Around 11 or 12, I used to run reasonably competitively and, in those days, I just ran because I was good at it. At about 14 I stopped, and didn’t start again until I was 30.
It was only at that point that running became something different. When I started running again that was when I discovered that serenity, that stillness, that meditative experience that running brings you. And that’s when I fell in love with running. That’s what got me hooked on running.
I’m a better person for going for a run every morning. I’m much more chilled, calmer, mellow - my vibrations are better for going for a run.
Why do you run?That zen moment. People often ask me, you run so much, what are you thinking about? But the beautiful place to get is the moment where you don’t really think about anything. You just become present - especially if you’re out and about in countryside or nature. When you’re really present, you feel so close and connected to everything around you. It’s a weird feeling. Sometimes, I feel so connected to the sky it’s almost part of me - the grass, the trees. Like we are part of this earth.
Sometimes, when I’m running I do feel that oneness with the earth rather than a human walking on it.
What was the period in between like?In the period without it, the first half of it anyway - I don’t know how candid you want me to be - but I was just going out, partying, doing lots of drugs. I wasn’t being very healthy.
After that, I got slightly fitter and healthier and started playing football and coached, as a job. I got a little bored of it though - the chat. It’s not the same as going for a run. You occasionally get in that flow state but it’s not the same. I just got so much more out of running.
I always used to have this argument with someone I played football with: I always used to say: anyone could run a marathon, you don’t need to train. One day, I just went out and ran a marathon distance up in the South Downs to prove a point. That’s when I really discovered running.
Your first ultra was 2009 - what was your transition from running for fun and your health to being competitive?It’s difficult to talk about a transition from there to competitive racing because I don’t feel like there’s that much different. I’m still just out there running, basically. Because I love it. It just so happens that I can compete doing it.
I’m going out to train to win races. I go out to run. To feel good. To have the meditative experience. It just happens that I can do that and it enables me to run competitively.
It also makes me feel less guilty about going for a long run for a few hours and leaving my family. It gives that validation - I can say “I’m going for a run” or I can say “I’m training” and it sounds better.
Running for England and GB, to be fair, was never a goal because I didn’t know you could do it. I wasn’t aware that was a possibility. It just so happened I ran a 24-hour track race and won it - and after the race a chap came up to me and told me I’d qualified to run for Great Britain.
At one point, you turned down the opportunity to run for GB - why?I’ve never been that comfortable with running in all this new kit. When you run for GB, you get given a load of kit - they’re sponsored by Nike. I turned down the opportunity at one point because of how it made me feel. But I feel bad because I’ve competed since for them but the recent European Championships I did something to combat that guilty feeling. put a logo over their’s and was talking about paying workers and trying to highlight bad practices.