The Joy of Running

There’s a running blog I read on occasion that terrifies me. The blogger doesn’t follow a training plan and basically runs a million junk miles, races constantly, eats pretty crappy and does a ton of other fitness-related stuff. Still, her race times have declined. But instead of recognizing she is over-trained and under-nourished, she’s piled on more races. She runs double digits two days after running marathons, never taking any recovery time. Reading her blog is a cautionary tale, although many of her readers find her inspirational. And guilt-inducing for not doing as she does.

But the craziest thing to me is that this blogger has said that she doesn’t really like running.

I don’t get it.

There’s an older woman, probably older than my parents (I’m terrible guessing ages, but I would guess in her 70s), who I see frequently at the Y. She typically spends about an hour walking on the treadmill. Last week she and I were side-by-side as I did my easy run, and after I finished, she shook her head with a smile and told me I was amazing. Which embarrassed me because I’m decidedly not amazing. But I thanked her anyway and told her I really enjoy running. She said she couldn’t run anymore and so “only” walked on the treadmill to keep fit and mobile, but that I made running look easy and I must love it to be so committed. Frankly, I think she’s amazing for getting to the Y on a regular basis to work out at her age. She’s always so friendly with everyone there, and I hope I can be like her one day.

Although I do rather hope I’ll still be running.

And I truly do love running. Sure, I have points in many runs when I’m just over it and want the run to be over. But mostly, I’m just thrilled to be doing it. I wish I could maintain that happiness better when I race. Because when I do remember to remind myself that I love running when I race, it makes all the difference.

I can understand running for health or weight loss reasons when you don’t especially enjoy it. But I really don’t get running yourself into the ground if the act doesn’t make you happy. Perhaps it’s because I’m not into pain that I’m crazy that way (and also why I’ll probably never excel at running 5ks).

My friend that swam the English Channel last month inspires me. She pushed through a ton of discomfort during her swim, yet she never lost sight of the fact that she loves swimming. I want to borrow her example when I run the Baystate Marathon next month, to remember how much I love to run when I (inevitably) hit a point of not wanting to go on and wondering why the hell I race to begin with.

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Doing my ITB rehab exercises. Don’t I look thrilled?

I hate getting my picture taken. About 95 percent of them make me want to never leave my house. I don’t even like looking in the mirror unless I’m checking my form for workouts and yoga. See my gym selfie (promise that I will not make a habit of this). All I can see is that I should’ve sucked in my gut and that my frown lines are getting deeper.

I got wrangled into a few group photos after my friend’s triumphant swim, and when I saw them posted on Facebook, I had to laugh as well as cringe. In one, I look like I’m standing in a hole. Granted, most of the folks I’m standing next to are a good deal taller than me. But I look kind of ridiculously shrimpy. The other one I look all bloated. I think it’s just the angle, but a part of me is ripping myself a new one about my appearance. In both I am post-run sweaty gross and still in my running clothes. The pictures reminded me why I shy from cameras.

But most of my race pictures please me, even the ones where I notice too many flaws. Because I look genuinely happy.

Yesterday I updated my Facebook profile photo with one from a race I did last year (see below). My channel swimming friend wrote the following comment on that picture:

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What I love about this comment is that my enthusiasm for running shows and may even be contagious. It doesn’t hurt that I truly enjoy running with my friend.

Running gives me an intangible something. It feels like I’m being myself, some simpler me that isn’t all caught up in anxiety and self-hatred. Which is why I find it upsetting when people like the blogger I mentioned at the start of this post use running to abuse themselves. You don’t gotta love it, but why make it an instrument of punishment? Running is a pure act. Just look at any toddler bursting into a sprint and try to tell me that running isn’t supposed to be fun.

It’s taper time, and I’m going to take it seriously. This cycle, I practiced more slow running and was pleased with how much faster I could do the hard parts of my workouts because of it. I don’t want to ruin my race experience by freaking out for the next few weeks. The best headspace I can be in is the one where running brings me joy. It’s not about the finish line — it’s the journey. (so cliché, so not sorry) And I want a grin on my face all the way through.

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I hope I look like this at the end of the Baystate Marathon next month. Maybe better form.

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19 thoughts on “The Joy of Running

  1. I passed 25 years of running this year, and I really can’t imagine doing THAT if I didn’t truly love it … especially the 4AM and -20F crap … 🙂

    Love the pics – and it is always so easy to see the worst in our pictures.

  2. The practiced grumbler, the little black rain cloud, Eeyore personified. Also sometimes known as the martyr. Unhealthy. I’ve been forbidden to run because of my back, but I go walking. I love reading about your joy in running. I can’t do it, but I benefit from your enthusiasm. I can’t run, but I can be more positive about my own exercise and nutrition. Go you!

    • Walking is awesome for you. In fact, that’s what I did before running — both times. I really love going for walks too. weirdly, walking causes me more lower back problems than running does. Mostly it gets super stiff and crunched up feeling. It might be my shoes.

      Being positive about my health and nutrition is a neat side effect of being active. It’s harder to eat crappy when you want to feel good exercising. Conversely, you can eat more crappy treats when you exercise more. Win win!

  3. You nailed it. Running and grinning. In a similar way I can’t not pick up my guitar and not smile. Even with the host of double negatives the phrase still makes sense for playing and running.

  4. Syd says:

    You are inspiring. And I know that you love running. I used to love it too, but now I will settle for the Cross Fit workouts at the gym, the treadmill and the elliptical. Keep on keeping on.

  5. I’m with you. I have some blogger friends like that. They are constantly doing races they aren’t prepared for and they keep getting slower and slower as they go. I think they sign up for so many races just so they can have something to blog about.
    Ha, the other day I was running and came to a park where a h.s. CC team was practicing. Two of the girls went to the restroom, then hid behind it so they wouldn’t have to run. I was thinking, ‘why’d they bother to join the team if they don’t want to run???’

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