Running is more than a hobby or a pastime. Everybody has their own reason for running. Ask ten runners and you’ll get ten different answers. Some run to de-stress after a long day at work. Others use running to wake up in the morning instead of (or in addition to) coffee. We run for the solitude, we run for the camaraderie. There are a lot of reasons to start running.
Sometimes we run just because we’re a little bit nuts.
I never liked running, as a sport, growing up. Sure, I ran a lot; I played football, and frisbee, and soccer. But to run track, or worse, cross country? Never. Running for running sake was boring, a lot of work for no purpose. If you wanted to get somewhere faster than walking, take a bike.
I was one of the faster kids in gym class when we did the mile run test. It was because I wanted to get done as quick as I could so I could sit and talk with my friends. Later, in the Navy, we had to do a mile-and-a-half run as part of our annual fitness test. I ran that as fast as I could too, for the same reason. I just wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.
After the Navy, I didn’t run at all. I biked and rollerbladed; those were fun. After a while, I gave those up too. I met my wife, Tracie, at a country bar and we would go dancing a couple of nights a week. Occasionally I would get on a gym kick and lift weights for a while, maybe pay a little deference to cardio with a mile on the treadmill. I was in decent shape, so I didn’t worry about it.
Tracie wasn’t really into physical activity either. One day, though, her cousin calls her up. Her cousin is getting ready to turn 40 and is feeling old. She says to my wife “Do you want to run a marathon with me?” Now mind you, neither of them were runners. Tracie, 33 at the time, hadn’t run since she played softball as a teenager. So she said, “No.” But after much pestering, her cousin talked her into it.
They trained for nine months to run the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. It was a lot of work, and I told Tracie she was crazy, but they did it. They finished in about eight and a half hours (Tracie’s time was officially 8:28:23). I don’t think I can do anything for eight and a half hours straight. Not even sleep.
Tracie tried to get me to go running with her while she was training. I said “No.” She went to races as part of her training and I stayed home with the kid. (I thought I was supporting her by arranging my schedule around her training runs and races. Now I know better.) I thought her medals looked pretty cool, but not cool enough to get me to run. The Air Force Haf Marathon medal almost got me to start. But not quite. I was—and still am—proud of her accomplishment. Less than one percent of the population has done it. That’s less than the number of people who understood the ending of Lost!
After the marathon, Tracie’s cousin stopped running, but Tracie kept doing it. She enjoyed the alone time and liked how she felt when she was running. She would spend the time thinking about things we needed to do to prepare for the zombie apocalypse. I told her she was crazy (for running, not the zombie apocalypse thing; hey! it could happen, you don’t know). Though I didn’t say it out loud, I still thought running was stupid.
Then one spring day, she talked me into going to the park and going for a walk/jog. I’m still not sure why I agreed to it, but I did. I think I bought my first pair of running shoes that weekend, and I started running. I was 45 years old and had never run longer than one and a half miles in my life.
It was somewhat enjoyable, but I didn’t know what I was doing. Basically, I just went out and ran with no goal, no strategy. I bought an armband for my phone and a water bottle belt and some running shorts. Although I wasn’t fast, I got out there and put in the miles. About twenty of them. A month.
Yeah, not a lot. But then I ran my first 5K. It was my longest run ever. During the last mile I was thinking Is this ever going to end? This is a ridiculously long way to run. I got a medal and a shirt. And a banana.
I was hooked.
So why do I run?
A lot of reasons. The base reason is because I don’t want to be bedridden in my “golden years.” I want to be active until I keel over dead. When I’m struggling to be motivated, that one will always get me over the hump.
Races are a lot of fun, especially if you are with your family or friends. Join a running group and you’ll find a lot of people to run races with. The races are fun anyway, but when you can root for your friends and family, it’s even better. Read some of my race reports to see what it’s like to run in a good race.
But what about the training runs? If the races were the only thing to keep runners running, there would be a lot fewer people running the Boston Marathon. Training runs can be a lot of work, and they aren’t always fun.
Even when they’re not fun, though, I always get something out of them, whether it’s a sense of accomplishment for overcoming a challenge or just the mental relaxation from disconnecting from the world for a while.
Of course, one of the main reasons people run is to improve their health. Whether it’s to lose weight or improve their heart health, running is one of the easiest exercises you can do to improve your overall health. In addition to cardiovascular health, running improves muscle tone, flexibility, and bone health.
There are a lot more reasons to run besides health. Depending on where you run, running can let you reconnect to nature. Some people enjoy trail running, which puts you in the middle of nature. Many bike and running paths go through woods and other undeveloped land. It’s not uncommon to see deer and other wild animals on your runs, especially if you run early in the morning.
For me, running first thing in the morning helps me prepare for the day. After an hour of running at sunrise and a hot shower, I pour a cup of coffee and I’m ready for the day. I’ve known people who are completely worthless their first hour at work until their first cup of coffee gets them going. I just smile to myself and think I’ve already run five miles today, and you’re barely awake.
I used to run in the evenings, and that had benefits too. An after work run was a great way to relieve stress from the day. Irritated with that coworker in the next cubical? You know, the one with the nasally voice who talks all day long. Go for a run with the music drowning out any ideas you might have that would get you in trouble with the boss.
Then there’s the social side. By joining a local running group, you’ll meet new people who you immediately have at least one thing in common with: running. Soon you’ll find yourself doing beer runs that actually involve running, or signing up for races you never knew about. Not to mention all the free running advice you can get from your group.
If you’re a brand new runner and need help getting started, check out Where Do I Start or any of the other articles in the Getting Started series. You can make a lot of excuses to sit on the couch. Excuses are like—. Well, nevermind. Just stop making them and start running.
But if you’re looking for reasons to start running, you can pick one of mine. And then another. Go ahead, be greedy, I don’t mind. Come up with a few of your own. Nobody will limit you to one or two reasons. Just find out what motivates you to put one foot in front of the other and go run.