My long runs are on Saturday mornings along a busy bike/pedestrian path in Huntington Beach, CA. Part of the fun of running near the beach is people watching. I see runners, surfers, people on beach cruisers and all kinds of characters.
The other day while on a run, I saw another runner coming toward me. She was probably in her mid forties and proceeding along at a good pace. She looked like she ran on a regular basis.
She was wearing a shirt that said “I HATE RUNNING.”
I grinned as she cruised by and knew just what she meant.
From time to time, we all hate running. Maybe you hate running all the time?
Well, I don’t. For all the pain and unpleasantness, running for me has been a blessing. In a lot of ways, it’s saved my life, helped me through a lot of hard times and made be a better person.
If you’re annoyed by people who say they love running, you’re REALLY going to be annoyed by this post. If you hate running, then skip ahead because I can hate it too and I share my reasons why at the end of the post.
I LOVE RUNNING, AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT!
OK, that’s annoying. For me, the benefits of running far outweigh the drawbacks. Here is my list, in no particular order, of all the things that make running such a great part of my life.
- It’s cheap. You just need a decent pair of shoes, shorts and a t-shirt and you’re off. There’s no special gear needed to get started.
- You can do it anywhere. Bring your shoes and you can run just about anywhere in the world. I love running in different states and countries just to say I’ve done it!
- Your progress is easily measurable. When I started, I ran half a block before pooping out (I was a smoker). I went from a few blocks to a mile (that’s a big deal) to miles to a marathon. I measured my progress along with way and saw the miles build up. If nothing else is going right and all your other numbers are down, it’s nice to see your mileage go up.
- You can RUN AWAY. Yes, you can safely run away from the problems of the day, clear your head and come back with a healthy sweat and sometimes a new perspective on the things that get you worked up. Some of my best runs can be fueled by a little (or a lot of angst). I can just feel it burn away and that’s beneficial not only to you but others around you when you get back.
- It’s a great conversation starter. Lots of people run on a regular basis. Enough that you can easily bring up your morning run or an upcoming race and you might hear back, “Oh you’re a runner? Cool–how many races have you done? It’s fun to compare notes and exchange funny stories and encouraging words with people you meet.
- No screens. This may not be true if you run on a treadmill (yuck). But if you run outside, it gets very difficult and downright dangerous to bury your face in an iPhone other digital distractions. We all need some media-free time. Running for me is a great self-imposed time of no distractions and quiet thought. The news and Facebook and work will be there right where you left them.
- Running relieves physical tension. If I’ve been cooped up in the office all day, I’m usually feeling tension in my back, neck, shoulders or jaw. Wherever I’m storing stress, running can magically realign my body to bring blood flow, focus and energy to other muscles needed for my run.
- It’s a great stress and anxiety reducer. I can get pretty stressed and anxious and find myself in a cycle of worry, but during and after my runs, those problems just don’t seem as bad. The mind-body connection that takes place during a run just forces the body to focus on more immediate sensations and needs. I’ll say this–I’ve never felt MORE stressed after a run.
- Running boosts self-confidence. Just finishing a race or running your first mile or walking around the block is a win. The more I did, the better I felt about myself. Other people kind of think you’re a badass too.
- It’s great to always have a goal and a deadline. I’m always signed up for a race. Why? Because I need a deadline and a goal like 13.1 or 26.2 to get me out the door sometimes and get some miles in. I love knowing that I have to be ready to run X distance in 10, 9, 8 weeks and plan my distances accordingly or I won’t make my goal. (My goal is always just to finish in a “decent” time and feel pretty good after.)
- Other runners inspire me. At every race, I always see someone taking part in a race with challenges they’ve overcome: a disabled veteran, wheelchair racers, blind marathoners (she was faster than me), and runners in their 70s, 80s and beyond all coming together, often to support a cause, to overcome obstacles that I can only imagine having to face. The energy of people coming together at a race is overwhelmingly positive. There’s a palpable hum of excited and inspiring energy just before and during a race. There’s nothing like it.
- It makes food better. Yes! It is possible to appreciate food even more. Just run your ass off or plan on running your ass off the next day and enjoy your food. You’ll be burning a good amount of those calories off. I call those “earned calories.” Of course, it’s not an excuse to eat like a maniac, but it does make you feel better during those post- or pre-long run meals. Just don’t overdo it. It’s more than likely you’re not burning as many calories as you think to make up for that cheeseburger and fries.
- You get outside. Unless the weather is horrible, I always prefer to go outside to run. For me, running is one of the best ways to connect with the outdoors and the beauty of nature. I’m lucky enough to live in beautiful California, where the weather is good and the running trails are many.
- You’re part of a community. Ever heard of the “Runner’s Wave?” It’s the universal recognition that says, “Hi, I’m waving to recognize that we’re both out here doing this right now while other people are sleeping or binge-watching Netflix.” Whether you’re just getting started or have been running for years, you’re part of a super inclusive and encouraging community and that’s a great feeling.
- You sleep better. I find I get much better sleep after a good run. My body is more relaxed, I feel a sense of calm, and I fall asleep faster.
- It’s a great way to start the day. A short or long run before the start of a busy day makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something positive.
- You can do it alone or with friends. I like to run alone, but my wife has a group that she runs with every Saturday for the last 20 years. They run and then go have bagels and laugh their butts off. Running is one of those sports where the benefits and rules don’t change with the number of participants you add–it just gets more fun.
- Running is much better than not running. I was a smoker for a long time. I rarely exercised and always had bronchitis, was getting sick or had some imagined malady. I lived like that for years before I started running in my late thirties. I can tell you without a doubt that being a runner is much better than the alternative.
Ok, here are the things I really don’t like about running. Maybe you can relate to some of these.
- Cars. Depending on where you live and run, cars can be a real pain and a real hazard. If you have to cross streets or run alongside roads, cars can be loud and rude. If you can find a good running path, use it. I’d much rather navigate around other runners or even cyclists (who can be annoying too!).
- Getting up. Yes, getting out of bed or off the couch or waking up at 4 am and going out into the cold darkness to run can make you wonder why you even decided to do this in the first place. Sometimes it sucks. But you just need to defy the laws of gravity and get moving.
- Bad runs. Sometimes you have bad runs. I mean sometimes everything hurts, you never feel quite right or you hit a wall you can’t seem to recover from. Bad runs happen. Nobody is superhuman. Bad runs aren’t all bad for me though, I think about what I might need to change in my conditioning or cross training or diet to avoid feeling this badly next time.
- It hurts. Yes, sometimes running hurts and it’s not fun. Sometimes you feel pain in your knees or foot or chest or shoulder or hand or hamstring or calf or shin or you have a blister or all of that at once. Those are points when your mental toughness kicks in.
- Stopping. I really, really don’t like stopping running once I’ve started and before I had planned to. When I stop running, it makes it very hard for me to start again.
- That’s not to say that walking is not OK. Sometimes you should walk and some training methods call for alternating walking and running. I just personally like running as far as I can without stopping.
- “It’s a big production.” When I’m feeling lazy, depressed or otherwise unmotivated, putting on my running clothes and shoes sure seems like a big deal. Sometimes the hardest part of a run is pushing past the excuses you have ready to prevent you from getting out there. Once I’m able to call BS on my excuses and start walking out the door then down the street then start running, it’s too late for me to back out. I always like to say, “I never regret going running.”
- It’s tiring! It sounds obvious, I know, but after a really hard or long run, I’m often not good for much in the way of activity the rest of the day.
- It’s a time suck. Training for a big run can take hours out of your week. Saturday mornings are my big run days, and I can be out for four hours just getting my miles in and driving to my running path.
- I feel poopy and guilty when I don’t run. Ultimately, it’s a good thing, but if I don’t run enough during the week, I tend to get preoccupied and negative about not running enough and start to feel aches and pains I don’t normally get.
- Injury. I’ve been very lucky to have had a pretty injury-free running career, even as a late bloomer. But when I do have to rest, I tend to worry I’ll never be able to run again or that my body is giving out.
So there you go, that’s my list and I’m sticking to it. I could actually add a thing or two on either side of the ledger but in the final analysis, life just feels better as a runner.