I didn’t set out to become a runner. It was never an ambition or dream I had as a kid. I can’t say for sure but I’d guess most people are the same… They kind of fall into running, discover that they like it (for whatever reason) and keep on doing it until – ta da! – they realise one day that they’ve transitioned into one of those lycra-wearing nut-jobs commonly referred to as a runner. Yay! But why do we do this? Why, when most people are tucked up under their duvets sleeping off one too many beers on a Saturday morning, are we lacing up our trainers, stretching our hip flexors and heading off to slog 5KM round the local park? Or scraping the mud off filthy, still-soggy-from-the-last-run fell shoes and yomping through the woods? Why? Well, here are a few possible reasons why – and why you should maybe dust off those old trainers and join us…
1: It’s cheaper than a gym membership
Running is cheap. The barest essentials required are some decent running shoes, some skin-friendly clothing (avoid cotton if you want to avoid being chafed to within an inch of your life) and, for the ladies or well-endowed gentleman, a sports bra. Never under-estimate the importance of the latter. I once witnessed a well-endowed lady nearly giving herself two black eyes due to unencapsulated lady-lumps. Ouch! Unless you want the old lady bits to sag, invest in a decent HIGH IMPACT sports bra.
So yes, some trainers, a tee-shirt, some shorts and a sports bra – cheap as chips! Of course, once you become a serious runner, you’ll realise you need road shoes, trail shoes, fell shoes, base layers, waterproofs, race vests, hydration packs and a GPS watch with enough computing power to run a small country but heck – now you don’t go out drinking anymore, what else are you going to spend all your money on?!?
2: It’s cheaper than therapy
You’ve probably seen t-shirts or mugs emblazoned with slogans like “I run to stay sane” or “I run because punching people in the face is frowned upon”… It’s true. Running gives you plenty of head-space, can help alleviate depression, and helps boost sleep quality, mood, and concentration. Plus, if you run for more than 30 minutes or so, a natural endorphin high which can help relieve stress and basically make you feel great, instantly. For about 3 seconds. Until you check your GPS and find your pace is way slower than you thought, and that some utter a•se has stolen your segment crown on Strava. Grrr – better go run off that anger (quickly, and get that crown back!)
3: It keeps you fit
Running burns lots of calories. Though possibly not as many as Strava or your GPS watch tend to claim (so put the Mars Bar down, okay?) Roughly speaking, it’s calculated that the number of calories you burn per mile of running is equivalent to your bodyweight in kilos. (So a runner weighing 70kg will burn about 70 calories per mile.) In theory, this should mean that taking up running as a hobby will mean you’ll turn into a lithe, racing whippet in no time. Sadly, the reality is that running will also make you so hungry that you will start to seriously consider the merits of eating random sweets that have been dropped on the street. I kid you not. At the end of races, the proffered banana or chocolate bar will disappear in less than a second and you will be looking around, wondering what happened to it, only to realise that you practically INHALED it. And that you’d happily mug the race marshals for another one.
4: It makes you stronger
When you start running, well-meaning (or just mean) family and friends will helpfully point out that “Running will wreck your knees.” This is one of those annoying, persistent and blatantly incorrect old-wives’ tales that gets bandied around by non-runners (possibly as a kind of defence for their own inactivity). Runners are no more prone to knee problems that the average non-runner. They probably just whine about it a lot more as it’s getting in the way of their running. Rather than being detrimental to the health of your joints, running increases bone mass, and even helps stem age-related bone loss. So there, nay-sayers!
5: It keeps you smart
Regular exercise helps to prevent age-related mental decline, particularly memory functions and attention. It’s also been found to help concentration-based tasks, memory, language, thinking, and judgment problems. This might be as a consequence of all those pace calculations you find yourself doing as you try to work out whether you’re going to get that elusive PB… The mental exercise required to convert your last mile time into pace per kilometre can be more tiring than the actual running!
6: It helps you live longer
Regular exercise can extend your life expectancy by years, as well as helping to prevent serious health issues like obesity, diabetes and some forms of cancer. Also, all that increased cardiovascular fitness will come in handy if you ever encounter a zombie apocalypse/wild bear/escaped tiger… You’ll live much longer than the non-runners!
7: It’s sociable
One of the nicest things about running is how friendly and welcoming runners tend to be. If someone turns up to a running club or ParkRun for the first time, chances are pretty good that they’ll be welcomed by all, encouraged during training and cheered on in races. Irrespective of their running ability, their desire to become a runner is enough for them to be welcomed with open arms. Contrast this with the typical gym where, even after being a member for almost a year, I know the name of only three people and nobody working out on the machines so much as grunts an acknowledgement of your existence… I still have no idea what half the stuff in there is for!
Getting yourself some running buddies has many benefits: it’s much easier to get those long runs done with some company; you can encourage each other through those inevitable slumps and keep each other going; you can find new routes to explore, and; you’ve now extended your social circle and made new friends who share your love of trainers, lycra and complaining about DOMS and black toenails.
8: Peace and solitude
Yes, running with friends can be awesome but sometimes we all just need time by ourselves, away from the stresses of work, kids and home. Going out for a run gives you that perfect opportunity to get some solitude, tune out the rest of the world and just get away from it all. Right up until you get back to your front door and can hear all hell breaking loose – dog barking, kids yelling, the works. Ah well, you could always do another mile!
9: It’s lovely out there
We live in a pretty damned fine part of the world and going out for a run gives you the chance to enjoy it. Take the time to explore new routes and you’ll soon find yourself wanting to run longer and further just to enjoy the time spent outside. (Not to mention away from the kids and the housework…) Try running along the coast, taking in the sea air or, if you’re not partial to being dive-bombed by territorial seagulls, head up to the woods or the moors for some stunning scenery. Even in less than beautiful weather, running off road (or just off the normal route) will breathe new life into your running. It’s certainly a lot more enjoyable than staring at the wall in the gym while pounding a treadmill…
10: You can do it anywhere
Runners do it everywhere! Smutty innuendo aside, you really can run almost anywhere. I don’t recommend a quick interval session on the local Army firing range but, apart from private property and inner-city gang territory, you’re pretty much able to run wherever you like. Unlike many other sports, it’s easy to take your running kit with you on holidays, business trips or romantic weekends (though, unless your other half is a runner or very understanding, this last one might get you in a spot of bother!) Packing your running kit on trips away means that you can get out and explore your new surroundings whilst (and this is the best part) building up a calorie deficit for the inevitable holiday booze and food.
What are your reasons for running? Feel free to comment…