Mostly for the misery of it, partly for the simplicity and beauty of it. Running for me is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. It’s a good way to manage pain, to visit the more emotional corners of my brain, to connect with people and to explore my immediate surroundings without getting in a car.
Pain and running go hand in hand. Running hurts and if you’re going to get into running, you’ll have to embrace that. Miles before your first runner’s high you’ll go through blisters, cramps, aches, stiffness, and nausea. Getting into running builds a certain resilience to pain. A resilience that gets stronger the more you test it. I find that after a particularly tough run, where I’ve pushed through physical pain, and come out and finished on the other end of it, I feel empowered to take on other challenges, and to be a bit braver in my day to day. I feel less controlled by the fear of the pain that life can throw at me.
You can use this pain resilience in all areas of your life to push through things which are painful but necessary, and then spring back to your normal self once the hard thing is done. You can also bring pain from other parts of your life into running and beat them out on the road. When I’m stressed, or upset about something, running more is my first line of defence.
The second reason I run is to keep in touch with my inner self. The rhythm of running regulates the speed of my thoughts, slowing them to a steady beat. And the music I’m listening to is like scaffolding on which I hang the canvas of my mind, and examine it. Different songs, draw attention to different thoughts. I especially love connecting with the sad side of myself in this way. I’ve found that sad songs with added heavy rain makes me run the fastest. Tom Odell’s Another Love and Girl in Red’s 4am will get me every time. I usually feel much better about things after a good run in the rain.
For the same reason that running is a good thinking activity, I find that running with other people is a great way to have profound conversations and to connect with them. The act of running distracts you from what your talking about, and what you’re talking about distracts you from the running. I hardly feel the miles going by when I’m with someone else. I’m also a lot more likely to show up happy to a 6am run if my buddy is waiting for me in the crisp twilit morning.
The last reason I like to run is how simple and beautiful it is. I don’t need a gym or any equipment, I don’t need good weather, some people don’t even need shoes to do it. Running gives you the power to move through the world and explore your surroundings under your own steam. There’s a beautiful run in Tramore, Ireland, which goes down the length of the beach there. Because the beach is a one dimensional spit of land sticking out into the bay for about 4km, with the town of Tramore on a hill at it’s root, and a wide head of sandunes at the tip, it feels like you’re running away from civilization to the end of the world. Getting lost in the sandunes, the sound of the sea disappears and there’s only sand, beach grass and sky. On the tallest dunes in the long summer evenings, you can see the sun go going down behind the silhouette of the town and the whole bay is bathed in golden light. You can’t see this from a car, or a bike, only running can take you there and back in time for tea.
So I run because it helps me deal with pain, and because it allows me to keep in touch with myself and to connect with others, and I get to take in views I never could have seen any other way. I highly recommend running to everyone.