Thoughts on... why I run
As I lie in bed writing this, I'm contemplating what time today I'm going to haul myself out for a 7 mile run. There are severe weather warnings here in Yorkshire - gale force winds are expected and the rain is just starting to come down. But I know I have to go out running despite this, as I am 3 weeks into my London marathon training plan and the long runs are the most important.
This will be the first time I have ran the London marathon, but it will also be my third marathon in as many years. You would be forgiven for thinking that this makes me a feel like a real runner or that running is something that feels natural to me, but this isn't the case. Running is difficult for me. I find it hard to motivate myself to get out of the door, I get out of breathe, my body aches for days after a long run and I am hands down the slowest runner I have ever met. I could probably power walk faster than I can run most of the time.
So why do I do it? Why after the pain (not to mention the time commitments) of training for, and taking part in, two gruelling marathons am I still going back for more? How can I keep motivating myself to take part in these sort of events, in full knowledge that I'll finish with the lower quartile of participants, overtaken most likely by someone three times my age and someone dressed as a guide dog/turtle/storm trooper? Well for me, there are a few reasons.
Lets start with the sense of achievement. When I started running just over 3 years ago, I could barely manage two miles. And those two miles left me feeling sweaty, exhausted and quite frankly, a little bit miserable. But as I gradually worked myself up to 5k, 10k and a half marathon, an overwhelming sense of pride started to swoop in. I was your typical "picked last in P.E." kinda gal, and here I was running distances that were quite bloody far. Not quickly by any means, but my body was able to keep going, keep plodding on. I can't quite explain the sense of achievement and pride that I felt after completing my first marathon - a distance that is quite far to cover even in a car. The fact that little old me had managed to do that was just a little bit amazing. And so I keep signing up, to get that finish line feeling, to remind myself that when I stick at things, I can actually achieve something pretty great.
Another thing that gets me out there, especially on days like today, when the weather is naff and I've got stuff lined up to watch on Netflix, is the simple fact that I never feel worse for going for a run. I may feel tired, I may feel sore, but mentally, I always come back feeling amazing. Take my run on Thursday night - I came from work feeling a bit stressed and frazzled, but after 4 steady miles soundtracked by Beyonce, I came home feeling on top of the world. I felt more positive, more focussed and a hell of a lot calmer. You see, running has the power to do that - to give you a fresh perspective.
Running is probably one of the only things in life I do alone - I work as part of a team of people, I live with my other half and I spend a lot of time with my family. And so sometimes, when life is busy and the diary is looking full, running is the only time I get to spend a bit of time with myself, to think things through, to stop and appreciate all that is going on in my little world. It can be almost meditative in this way - in a day and age when we are always so busy, so tuned in to our technology, running can be a brilliant way to switch off and just think. I always feel so much healthier mentally when I am in a good running routine and I think this is a big reason why.
Finally, running also has such great physical health benefits. For me, the mental benefits outweigh anything physically, but there is no denying that I have more energy when I am exercising. Just before I started on my current training plan I had taken a little break from running. I felt lethargic and sluggish, my digestive system was out of kilter and I felt like I had a permanent cold. Fast forward 4 weeks and I am back to my usual self. For this reason, I will always go back to running. I have a demanding job and a hectic social life, and I want to have to be healthy and energetic enough to enjoy both.
So there you have it. Running for me is better than any sort of therapy, medicine or magic cure you could offer. It's free, you can do it anytime and yet, there are more benefits to it than any other sort of exercise or health fad I have tried. It's the one thing I would recommend universally to anyone - believe me when I say you will not know how great it can be until you get outside and start doing. Which is exactly what i am going to do now!
Do any of you run? What is it that you love about it?