Why Running?

I usually run alone, but fairly recently I went running with a coworker and friend, and he invited a running friend of his along as well. Somewhere around mile five or six, she asked me, “So why running, for you?” That’s a hard question to answer, for me, and I have been thinking about it since then.

I’ve been running off and on for about twelve years; this is the first time in about six that I’ve pushed through my three-month/three-mile threshold. For the past year I’ve been running increasingly long distances, trying to get out and run at least three times a week, with varying levels and styles of cross training. I don’t drive, so I do all of my daily commuting/traveling by bike, and I plan to get back to longer rides now that the weather is turning. I do yoga and lift weights when I can muster up the energy, and try to stretch a lot every day, even if I’m not doing any other exercise.

The internet would have us believe that running is like this:

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Would that every day was gray and misty and there were never any other humans around and I actually invested in stylish running outfits. If running was like this, no one would ever ask why you do it; everyone would just want to do it.

More accurate portraits of my current running life would include me shuffling in circles around the city of Providence trying to rack up a few more miles; me pouring Listerine over my broken toe so the nail doesn’t become fungal as it grows back in; me blowing my nose into my shirt because my allergies are terrible and I can barely breathe; me averting my eyes and turning the volume on my phone up so I can block out creepy dudes as much as possible while running in the city; new leg muscles rendering most of my pants too tight- do I need to buy new pants now, on top of everything else? It doesn’t sound so good. So there is still that question, why do it?

I guess in spite of all of the above, this is how I relax. It feels good to be outside and moving, and to be in a kind of imagined isolation. I feel like my brain works better when I’m covering some physical ground. And because most of my day is spent at a desk, I feel especially grateful for the literal change of pace.

 

Let’s be fair. There is a running advertisement that speaks to the very core of me. Running is a time out, where none of these things can catch me:

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Put simply, maybe there is a reason it is called running away from your problems. A special bonus is that when you’re done running, all problems are put back in perspective.

This past Sunday, I ran my first half marathon. I say first because, although six months ago I registered for the event unsure that I would actually push through the mileage and feel ready to run 13.1 miles, but now, instead of feeling like I’ve reached a goal, I feel like I’m just getting started. I feel lucky that I’m able to do this because I can’t imagine being able to lose myself this way in anything else, and it feels good to see how far I’ve come in just the last six months; I can’t wait to see where I am in another six. It’s different, but I feel somewhat about running the way I feel about knitting. They share a meditative quality, and the potential for constantly overcoming new, small obstacles. In both cases, I feel like I’ve reached a point where these are things that I crave as a part of my day, and know to factor into my daily routine. It feels good.

ETA: This post popped up in my feed via Fit and Feminist (highly recommended). It’s always worth reiterating that thinness is one of running’s top PR problems. As alluded to above (re: my pants), running hasn’t made me thinner, and it hasn’t given me fitspo muscle definition. But has it helped me conquer body issues by reminding me what my body is capable of doing? Yup. And that is certainly another thing that makes me glad to be a runner.

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5 comments

  1. This! All of this! When I ran into you at Julian’s back in the fall I was in town because I was running my first half the next morning down in Westerly. I signed up six months out without much mileage under my belt – just a few months of three mile runs, and a growing appreciation for the escapism that running indulges, and the way it beats my anxiety into submission, at least for a little while. And holy learning how to listen to your body, batman. Seriously. Anyway – thanks for posting. And thanks for sharing your as-seen-while-running posts on Instagram – the beautiful, weird shit you see that you’d probably miss otherwise is another of my “why running” answers.

    • Yes! I feel like we went into our races under very similar circumstances! Learning to listen to your body – for real! It’s been a learning experience for sure. And I’m glad you get a kick out of the things I stumble upon – those little gems are honestly what keep me from going crazy running in the city. I do sometimes wish I had scenic farm roads to escape to, but then I wouldn’t get to see fake skeletons and weave, so that’s a point on the side of city running.

  2. Congratulations on your first half marathon!! I completely agree that running is a way to decompress and once complete life’s problems are put back into perspective. I have solved many dilemmas while out on my morning run. It has also become my time to check in with my body and discover how I am really feeling. I can monitor my breathing, how my body responds to the pace, this is my time to officially relax.

    The photos above are supposed to entice others to run. I agree that they are not an accurate representation of what it looks like to run but they have to leave something for people to lust for. I like to imagine the photos are on the inside while I am running even if they aren’t necessarily seen on the outside.


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