I don’t run because I enjoy it. Most of the time it is a grueling experience in which I am constantly fighting this inner battle in my mind of when to give up, how far to go, how fast I can push myself. So why do I do it?
Way back in the...
When I was in middle school I ran cross country. Where I grew up sports were paramount-
you did a sport every season, to not was just not really an option. But when I got to high
school and learned I would have to be running 8 miles for practice, I ran in the opposite direction. Running just to run had no point to me.
I did play soccer, though. Ironically, we would run up to 10 miles in a game. For whatever reason, that was way more palatable than cross country or track. It remained that way much into my adulthood, until soccer and other sports weren’t readily available. Then all I had was running.
It took me a few years to enjoy it: I found places to run that had beautiful views, running clubs to keep it social, and joined in races and “fun runs” with friends to have goals to work towards.
Somewhere down the line, I realized that the act of running isn’t what keeps me coming back. For me the key benefits are:
In January, I lost two family members to cancer. By coincidence, I made a personal goal to run everyday of the month. But it is no coincidence that despite the grief and pain and all the emotions that you feel when you lose people you love- despite all that, I was ok.
I was ok in that I wasn't, but it wasn't overwhelming, or all-consuming. If my body was a cup and my emotions were the liquid within, I didn't feel like my cup was overflowing. Running kept my "cup" at a manageable level.
In February, I took a week-long break from running and within days the weight of the world sat squarely on my shoulders. I couldn't move, I felt all the stages of grief at once, and it continued until I began running again.
For my mental health, running has become my best medicine.
View in AZ while running in January.
Pretty vistas definitely makes running easier!
My body has always responded well to cardio. Be it cycling, swimming or running, I feel my body tone almost immediately. It's arduous and I'm prone to side stitches, but the feeling of levity, physically and mentally, helps motivate me to continue when I'd really rather not.
In the book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall, he talks about how all long distance runners have this inner "monster" that shows up.
When the "monster" shows up is different for everyone, how it shows up is similar.
It’s the voice in your head that tells you to stop. Tells you you can’t. Latches on to any fear or pain and amplifies it. Makes your legs heavy, and breathing difficult.
It becomes not about running, but about beating the monster.
This is what running has become about for me. What do I do when the "monster" shows up?
Do I quit?
Do I choose the easier path?
Do I get so in my head that I can't see what lies ahead?
The real challenge in running isn't just the physical challenge, it's learning how to see past the temporary discomfort, towards the long term gains. By practicing this in a manageable, controlled way, I learn tools that help me when the "monster" shows up in my everyday life.
So don't run because you hope one day you'll enjoy it. Run for the benefits you'll feel later on. Run to prove to yourself that you can do seemingly impossible things. Getting a runner's high is fleeting and sporadic, it's not enough to create sustenance.
Seek fulfillment in the journey, and you may find that the challenge is what you actually enjoy the most!