Why Do You Run?

I asked this question last week and was amazed at the many reasons we have for why we run. My answer has certainly evolved over the last 20 years from when I started middle school cross-country running to now racing marathons and coaching athletes, but my fundamental reason has remained the same. 

I run to test and expand my physical and mental limits. I run to let go of the mundane and connect with my thoughts, developing a self-awareness of who I am and what I want to achieve. Every time I conquer my only competitor, the little voice telling me to quit, I become a more confident, passionate, and disciplined person. I run to replace any weakness or ignorance with strength and consciousness. In life, there are many obstacles, but as I keep running, I know I can triumph over any hurdle. I hope to always run and always run knowing why.

I am including below several of the responses I received - thank you for sharing why you run!

For many of us, running is a form of meditation:

I run because it’s the greatest stress reliever - almost like a moving meditation. It’s my time to zone out, be alone, breathe, and re-center myself.
-Mary Beth
I run to find calm. Running is a form of meditation for me - it helps me disconnect from all of the stresses and distractions in my life, and reconnect with myself (and others who join).
-Chris, training for the Maine Coast Marathon
I can’t stand still, but when I run, my mind can wonder in a meditative state.
Running is my meditation. It gives me escape and focus at the same time, and the challenge of it keeps me coming back for more.
-Katie H., training for the NYC Half Marathon
“I run for mental, emotional, & physical health (but mostly mental). I find myself worrying less about the things going on in my life after a good run, it puts things in perspective, and it gives me time to meditate on a thought or go blank. It also teaches me about perseverance, and taking things one step at a time, literally!
-Aris, training for the NYC Marathon

The meditative nature of running extends to its simplicity:

I run because it’s the purest form of exercise.
-Steve, training for the Brooklyn Half Marathon
I run because it’s so efficient. I can get out the door and start my workout immediately. It’s free, I can get my heart rate up immediately, and I can reap all the benefits that exercise provides, like improving my cardiovascular health, maintaining bone density, and burning calories.
-Alice, training for the Spring Fling 10K
I run because of the amazing convenience. Just put on the shoes, and go. Anywhere. Anytime of day.

And Patrick's thoughts are echoed by his daughter Celine!

I run for the simplicity. The world becomes less complicated and you can escape from anything. The simplicity also allows room for reflect or introspection. It’s the best therapy I’ve ever had and it’s never been about competition. For me, it’s about exploration and connecting myself with my surroundings. I love feeling exhausted at the end of a run and the endorphins are always a huge bonus!
-Celine, training for the New Zealand RacingThePlanet 250K (next week!)

We evolved as humans largely because our ancestors survived by out-running animals. Each of us was born with the innate ability to run. And as a result, it's only natural that running helps us understand our minds and bodies better:

Running is happiness! I run to gain perspective and minimize stress. I run to push my body and see how far or fast it will take me. Each new mile or faster split is a small accomplishment to celebrate. I find comfort in the routine of a training plan. I run to understand myself better.
-Christina, training for the NYC Half Marathon
I run to train my mind to be even stronger!
I run to continuously show myself that I can accomplish a goal I once thought was impossible.
-Jen, training for the Berlin Marathon
I run because running has allowed me to overcome my body image insecurities. Instead of focusing on weight and appearance in the mirror, running makes me feel strong and proud of what my body can do.
-Jess, training for the NYC Half Marathon

Running also helps us understand others better:

I run to spend time with my husband and try to understand what he likes so much about it!

And regardless of our abilities, running can make each of us feel on top of the world and find meaning in life:

Running allows me to engage in the world around me, and it offers me something meaningful and new every single day.  Running helps me find whatever I’m looking for and whatever I need, whether I fully realize it or not—community, peace and respite, intensity, dreams of lofty goals, freedom of the outdoors, youthfulness, metaphors about hard work and sacrifice. In a variety of ways, running makes me a better and more fulfilled human being.
-Lauren, training for the 2020 Olympic Marathon trials
I’m not a very ‘good’ runner in any measurable sense. I’ll never break the tape or set a record but I love it, and part of the reason I love it is precisely because I’m not good at it. I love it because it pushes me to try harder. I love that during a run the rest of the world ceases to exist, and I go to a place where all I’m focused on is the next step. I love that it shows my kids that effort and perseverance matter and that you should always try to improve. But most of all I love the happy, powerful, and exhausted feeling at the end of a run where I feel like the world is my oyster.
-Roshni, training for the NYC Triathlon
I love running because it makes me feel unstoppable. Am I the fastest runner? No, definitely not. Do I FEEL like the fastest when I’m sprinting in Coach Raj’s class? Hell yes I do. What feeling is better than that? Starting my day off with a run makes me feel like I can take on whatever the day will throw at me.
-Katie W., training for the Shape Women’s Half Marathon

And finally, we run because we can. From my experience as an Achilles guide and running in the 2013 Boston Marathon, I remind myself that every mile is a gift. Every finish line is a gift. Knowing that we don't know when something will be taken away from us. Being grateful for every step we take:

I started running just to add something different into my workout routine - I’d get 30 minutes in and call it a day, pretty much dreading every second. But over the past few months, something has clicked. Running has become almost therapeutic. It’s the only thing I do regularly that both calms me and excites me, brings me down to earth while also challenging me to be better. I shock myself everyday with how far I’ve come, and more importantly, I’ve become grateful to have 2 legs to run on. There are many people who want to get out there and see the world this way, and I consider myself lucky to do it whenever I want.
-Noelle, training for the NYC Half Marathon
I run because it’s a shame not to. As long as my body can still execute a workout that’s so hard, so mind-clearing, and so perfect that even I’m surprised, I’ll take every ugly run and disappointing race that comes along with it. Running shows you what you’re capable of, but you have to put up with a lot to earn that. Running is a gift.
-Anisa, training for the NYC Half Marathon
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