As a member of a running club, I have loads of friends who are really into running. In contrast, outside my running circle I have a number of friends and one particular colleague who simply don’t understand at all why I spend the bulk of my free time out in all weathers in revealing day-glo lycra.
We’ll let the colleague off (since she genuinely has something akin to PTSD about athletics as a result of being very good at it during her school days and the subsequent training methods employed), but here are my answers to others who ask why I like this sport:
- It keeps you fit. Seriously, go to all the Zumba sessions, spinning and step classes you want – nothing gets you fitter faster than running does. We’re built for it, it’s a natural movement, and it works your whole body in a way that other sports just can’t compete with.
- (Actually, don’t do a step class. Step class is terrible).
- It’s very sociable if you want it to be. Even if you don’t join a formal club, there’s usually someone willing to go out for a turn around the block with you. And since most long runs should be completed at conversational pace, you get plenty of time to catch up with your buddies on the go. I’ve found out all sorts of interesting things about my running pals during Sunday club run. The running community is a super friendly one, and if clubs aren’t your thing I would encourage anyone to at least sign up for parkrun and get out there every Saturday. You start running into all sorts of people you know in your local high street and it gives you a great sense of putting down some roots.
- On the other hand, it provides much needed alone time if you want it to. Heading out for a seriously long run gives you loads of time to think things through if you have a lot on your mind. Equally if you’re doing a shorter distance but really going for it, there simply isn’t head space to keep dwelling on that person who was a dick to you at work today, or how you’re going to broker a peace deal between warring factions of the family. This is your time to clear out the noise and catch up with yourself. Or if you’re like me and enjoy listening to middle class radio soap operas on the run, it’s your time to catch up with the Archers.
- Running, like any hobby, gives you an alternative focus. Maybe you’re that one person that’s 100% happy with all aspects of their life – if you are, yay you! We found you! But if you’re anything like the rest of us you’re probably overloaded at one time or another with stress in your home or work life. Personally, I’ve found that training seriously for a race I care about, whatever the distance, allows me to divide my attention more productively and put things into perspective. Without it, I risk letting work take over my life.
- Running has the potential to completely alter your body image. We spend so much time thinking about how we look, and not what we can do. Running seriously redresses that balance. Honestly, at the end of a half or a marathon I could not give a flying doodah what I look like, other than to acknowledge that what I see in the mirror is what awesome looks like.
- Having said that, one of my favourite things about running is that you get to buy a load of really cute running gear. We spend hours of our lives every week in this kit, and it’s not the cheapest. For the time and the money I spend, I want to look like three types of magnificent in it – at least when I set out. I also never tire of new running shoes, even if they are basically the same model – the more colourways the better (God Bless Amazon and their amazing discounts on last season’s Asics).
- You get a massive sense of achievement out of running, whatever pace you’re at, because you’re only trying to beat yourself. Most runners, although not all, have some sort of GPS watch that shows them how they are improving with stats ranging from sensible things like distance and pace right through to the dark arts of cadence and heart rate. Even if you never race, this shows you how much better you’re getting and how much fitter you are from when you started. And speaking of racing, don’t get me started on how awesome it feels to bring home a good bit of bling in return for your efforts, especially if it was hard won and you know you gave it everything you’d got.
So there we are. Running makes you fitter, happier, and less stressed, bags you medals, gives you a licence to shop and makes you friends.
That’s what I like about it.