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Reasons to Run If lacing up is fun for you, you don’t need a reason.by Gary Reading, Sep 2018
There is nothing quite so unpleasant as the advice of a newly converted runner. The advice is often wrong, for starters. And it usually comes from a desire to impress more than to instruct. I know all about that, and so does everyone around me. As a new runner, I was probably impossible to live with. When I wasn’t complaining about how difficult running was, I was bragging about doing it. Moaning and boasting took up the better part of the day, but because I never like to waste space, I filled the little time left with words of advice. If you run for a month and finally make it a mile, that’s one thing, but if you run for a month, make it a mile, and then tell everyone what kind of shoes they should wear, well pardner, that’s living.
Now that I’ve been running for a while, I have less advice to give. That’s because advice is a recommendation to do something in one particular way. But if you run long enough, you’ll do so in every conceivable way. You’ll run smart and stupid, fast and slow, short and long, in good weather and bad, with dogs, with friends, with children, alone, on a full stomach and nearly starving, in fancy shoes and old beaters, on college tracks and over mountains, on country roads and city streets. Identical runs will be easy one day, grueling the next. You’ll have long runs that fly by, short ones that grind on forever. One day the syrupy waffle bogs you down, the next day it fuels the final sprint.
Though I can no longer tell anyone how far they should go in what kind of shoes after eating what kind of food, the miles I’ve logged have given me authority to talk about what could be the single most important issue every runner must face and conquer: how to keep from quitting. Running experts know about the metabolic benefits of interval training, injury prevention, and foot-bed biomechanics. I know about how to haul the lazy bod out the door when it would rather drink coffee and eat cold pizza.
I hated running for over a year. I know, hate is a strong word. You know what a stronger word is? Superhate. In my first year and a half, I superhated running every time I went out. Those days are mostly behind me now, but there are still times when I super-don’t-want-to-get-out-there-and-do-it-at-all. I’m not one of those people who can’t wait to run. I’ve given up on the hope that I’ll ever become the person who’s pacing like an animal until he gets a run in. What I’ve become is the person who will never quit running no matter how bad it sometimes feels. I’ve become the person who has finally accepted the fundamental truth that although you can have the occasional tremendous run, even the best time out is nowhere near as tremendous as coffee and cold pizza.
How do you keep from quitting despite this stark reality? How does a rational person choose discomfort over comfort, time and again? In other words, how do you stay crazy? There are many compelling reasons to run–some universal, some personal, some obvious, some obscure. The trick is to keep those reasons at the front of your mind. You make a list of these reasons–a convincing list of arguments for why you run. You refer to the list when you are weak and the cake is strong. The word fun is not on this list. If running is fun for you, you don’t need a list. The rest of us do. We need reasons to run. Really good reasons. Mine are these:
Running makes you beautiful. Look around and you’ll see unattractive people on every corner. I used to see one when I looked in the mirror. Pick out a random unattractive person and imagine what they’d look like running. I’ve never seen an ugly runner. Running changes everything. I know, never is a strong word–you know what a stronger word is? Supernever.
Gear. You get to wear it and not look like an idiot because running is hard and you’ve earned it. Some people look fantastic in cutoffs and T-shirts–those are the people who say gear and running don’t mix. What do they know? They look good in cutoffs and T-shirts. Let them run naked in the forest. The rest of us will shallowly compensate for our shortcomings with gear–bright orange shoes to fix pokey, neon green jackets to fix old, big black watches to fix slow, compression tops with racing stripes to fix flabby.
Weight. You lose it. Don’t listen to those who say you can’t drop pounds running. You will. Sure, a three-mile run only burns a single cream-filled doughnut, but hey, that’s a cream-filled doughnut down the hatch and you’re still even (my list favors motivational strength over complete accuracy, if it isn’t already obvious). Show me an overweight, longtime runner, and I’ll show you an aardvark. Both are hard to find. You’d have to be extremely determined about eating badly if you wanted to gain weight while running consistently over the long haul. Chances are better you’ll grow thin.
Health, vitality, and well-being. Just try to go through a day without tripping over a new medical study that says running is good for you. These researchers are trying to tell us something. Their results essentially say, “Go long or go home.” Hard science has firmly established that running significantly increases our chances for more time on the planet, better time on the planet. There is a list of reasons to run within this single heading alone. Choose almost any physical calamity you can think of, and a recent study will indicate that the simple act of running will tip the odds in your favor. As tough as running can be, it’s nowhere near as tough as what happens without it.
Inspiration. The first person you have to inspire every day is yourself. Running will do that. We’re all terrible at something. Why not make up for it with a strenuous, completely unrelated activity? When you’re nothing but a slob at the desk, you can instantly turn yourself around with a quick run. I’ve never been in a ditch so low that a run wouldn’t pop me out of it. There are no shadings in this. Every run makes you fantastic. Once you stop, you’re on your own, so it’s a better bet to just keep it going. Some people say we should do no harm. Others tell us to be kind to one another. Why not take it a step further and attempt to inspire others? Running is not a private activity. People are watching. Show someone what it’s like to want something. Lace up and give them something to believe in.
My complete list is longer than this one, and it’s constantly evolving. For instance, I used to think running would make me smarter. I’m still looking for the study to support that one. In the meantime, I’ll scratch in a new entry that occurred to me during this morning’s run–something so simple and so true that it must have been said by others before me. It doesn’t matter how you do it, it only matters that you do it. The only bad run is the one you didn’t take.
That one should keep me away from the pizza for a little while.