My attempt to answer a question I am so often asked – “why do you run?“
“I am confident and comfortable in my own skin”
Running is hard. It requires effort. Sometimes the rapid breathing hurts our chest and our quads start to burn or our knees feel funny from the pounding of our feet against the ground. Running requires heading out in the cold and running in a big circle and then ending up exactly in the same place you started.
It’s easy to see why people question someones love of running. Particularly when I enjoy it so much that I have a dedicated Instagram account and always have a race coming up. I can no longer say ‘I just want to get fit’ or ‘I just want to lose weight’. 2.5 years into my running journey and I’d probably have achieved at least one of those goals by now if that were the case.
The truth is, I don’t run to lose weight, and I do feel pretty fit now. Finally, after 25 years, I really couldn’t give a damn about weight loss and I am confident and comfortable in my own skin. When I take my running trainers on holiday or make every effort to squeeze a run in during a busy day, it’s not because I am ‘obsessed’ or get scared that I will lose fitness or gain stone if I miss a run. Running is much, much more than that to me.
So, why do I run?
Running takes me to a place that I am simply addicted to. I somehow find a mindset and an energy that I am yet to find doing any other activity. During my last marathon (Milton Keynes, 2019) I hit 21 miles and felt the ‘wall’ coming, but more mentally than physically. Somehow, I switched my mindset and went to a place that I have never been before. I was able to block out all negative thoughts and all pain and focused 100% on taking enough steps to get me to the finish line, so much so that I really cannot remember that last 5 miles. When I crossed the finish line, I suddenly awoke again and had an intense rush of endorphins and pride.
“I become so disconnected from everyday work and life, that I somehow become incredibly connected with myself.”
Endorphins and pride are both elements I still feel after each and every run today, because I make sure I never forget where my running journey started. To a seasoned runner, even 10km is an effortless distance, but I make sure that I appreciate that like all other runners, I started from not even being able to run 1 mile.
Running is also the only time my brain switches off. Personally, I cannot switch off through popular mindfulness techniques such as meditation or yoga, but I can during a run. In day to day life, I am an over-thinker and I often let little details get in the way of my day. But when I am running, my phone is away, there is no one but myself that cares about what I am doing, I am running through woodlands that are awake whilst the rest of the world sleeping and I am simply elated. I become so disconnected from everyday work and life, that I somehow become incredibly connected with myself.
During a run, the only important thing in that moment is getting to the next mile, allowing me to think about an issue I need to solve, or something I need to plan. When I get home, anything that has been bothering me has already been put into perspective and somewhat solved, which is perfect for someone with a busy mind, like myself. Plus, I’ve already achieved something amazing by heading out for a run, even if the rest of the day is not quite so successful.
I also run because I am fascinated by the strength others have. I will never forget standing at mile 24 of the London Marathon in 2017 (before I had ever run a marathon). I saw hundreds of runners run by who at the time, would have felt in a difficult place. They have 24 miles of running in their legs with 2.2 miles still to go. I saw people limping and then trying to run again, people crying, the odd person with a forced smile. I was so inspired by actually seeing people push through a difficult situation. They’d trained for around 16 weeks for this moment, knowing that it would be far from easy and now here they all were, 2 miles from the end. Sticking to a training plan for 16 weeks to essentially achieve a goal that only YOU care about, that is 100% for yourself, is something that must be admired.
I guess the message in this ramble is that, I run because it makes me happy. It helps me focus on the rest of my life. I can prove to myself that I really can push myself and go out of my comfort zone and that I don’t give up, even though in other areas of my life, sometimes I want to, or do, give up. Running to me is like someone else’s ‘Netflix’ time. Don’t get me wrong, I also love Netflix (I’ve watched all seasons of Gossip Girl 5 times), but often people will say ‘relax, take a day off!’ if I mention a run. But that’s the thing – it is the way I relax.
Why do you run?