Why Do We Run?

Why Do We Run?

Why Run During This Major Upheaval in Our Lives?

There are many reasons why people run. The tech many of us depend on to log and share our runs with others, Strava, has even completed a study on it, surveying 25,000 people and interviewing coaches, psychologists, and athletes to dig deeply into the aspects of life that make running so crucial for many. The Strava research found that most popular among the multitudes of reasons people run are the obvious ones – physical and mental health/fitness, the social experience, and community.

Part of what makes the sport of running so wonderful for many people are the social aspects of it and the greater connection to humanity we feel when we participate in running-themed events. We test ourselves, often culminating months of training by reaching our goals (or not) at races; we often meet others who are engaged in a similar journey; and we revel in simply being in community with others. Even for the most introverted among us, the ability to train for and complete a 5K or a marathon alongside those who have done precisely the same thing, even with our highly individualized goals, connects us deeply to others in our own friend circles and to the larger community of runners in the world.

Perhaps some find it difficult to understand the motivation and need to run, particularly in the midst of the global emergency we are experiencing right now. Some might even find it...frivolous. But when we think about how our identities (not just runners’) are tied up in the things that we do for work, for leisure, and in service to our physical/mental wellness, losing the pre-COVID19 normalcy and routine has been a major blow to many psyches. This ripping away of our identities and normalcy is challenging for anyone with a deeply rooted passion for something that is an important part of your daily routine, weekend exploits, business and personal travel, social groups, and your sense of belonging.

For the entire world, life has changed immeasurably, in ways that we cannot necessarily control. Some of us have also struggled to recover from illness, others have lost loved ones and friends, and many have been dealt devastating, career-ending blows that have led to anxiety and financial insecurity. People who run belong to these groups, too.

But the light that still shines for many, even in this time of physical distancing and #stayhome directives, is that we still have the capacity to train. It might not look like your weekly long run loops in Central Park, your tempo run along Lakefront Trail in Chicago, or your hilly, serpentine romp on your local trail, but it is training, nonetheless.

It might be a two-mile loop around your block for a virtual race or an energizing session on your treadmill. It might be finally having time to lift the rusty dumbbells in your garage, participating in a free workout online, or simply putting together a set of bodyweight exercises you can do while supervising your children in Zoomschool, while trying to do your own work within this new, ever-changing reality.

Personally, I have found myself pulling back the mileage a bit, focusing on improving some aspects of my running that I’ve needed to work on for a while, and strengthening the entirety of my body for well, life. Most of all, I’m trying to take advantage of every breath that I get to take in the outdoors, every lunge or squat that I do indoors, every opportunity that I have to express gratitude to my body for simply existing and weathering the storm of uncertainty.

This is it. What we have is the ability to control this. Moving with intention, or even more simply – working towards something, even though that something is elusive and may be far off in the future. Isn’t that what the marathon is? That thing in the future...we prepare and prepare, trying to visualize the experience that we want to have on that special day. We know intuitively that race day may not go as planned, but we hold out hope in our legs, our lungs, and hearts that it will at least go. That is where some of our hope lies. This is a really valuable perspective to have. We don’t know what “race day” will bring (or when it will be, for that matter), but we still train and prepare with the faith that something will happen, and hopefully it will be good.

So, my friends, train for that real or proverbial race, hold your family and friends close, honor your basic human need to move (with caution and physical distancing, preferably alone), and keep holding onto hope. And science. That is all we’ve got.

- Mirna