In school, I hated running. P.E. was my most dreaded period for almost every year that I had it. I hated being told where and how to run and I hated the intense pressure put on me to perform a mile in under a certain amount time that really wouldn’t prove anything about my health other than the unhealthy extent to which I pushed my body. When I graduated, I almost swore to never run again in my life–that is, until I realized something.
I didn’t hate the act of running itself; I hated being forced to run to meet someone else’s unnecessary standards. Once I came to this realization, I tried running a little bit on my own. From there, I started to like running, and then, as I got more and more into it, to love running. Going from hate to love is such a turnaround that sometimes even I don’t believe it, so I’ve created a list of things I love about running to help myself remember why I chose this path to follow.
1. It keeps me in tune with my body
When I run, I usually do the same simple, stress-free routine: Skip Mondays and Fridays, an hour long jog on my treadmill every weekday, and five miles around my neighborhood on the weekends. If I ever have a problem with it–shortness of breath or a cramp, for example–I know that something is wrong. Not being able to complete my runs easily tells me that I might be getting sick or that I might need to up my daily supplements. It keeps me more on top of my overall condition.
2. It helps my depression
It’s true, though not in the way uninformed neurotypicals expect. Picking up running didn’t suddenly make my brain start producing more serotonin. I’m sure that happens for some people, but for me, it’s more of an accomplishment thing. Depression makes it hard to do things like get out of bed, get dressed, and brush your teeth. If I can get up, eat something, stretch, go for a jog, and clean myself up after that, I can start the day feeling good about myself.
3. It impresses my family
On a related note, as a person with a family that’s used to seeing me as a depressed, executive dysfunction ridden gremlin, whenever they visit me they’re very impressed and supportive of my endeavors. It’s always nice to exceed someone’s expectations just by going about my daily routine.
4. It connects me to my community
With each weekend run around my neighborhood, I learn more and more about the people in my community. The old couple down the street just celebrated their 49th anniversary; the kids two blocks over play Pokémon outside every Saturday; three neighborhood dogs and two cats love me; one dog wants to eat my soul, though from what her owners say, she’s like that to everyone. It’s a nice feeling to know so many people in my community through running.
5. It can be social or not
Back to the depression thing–sometimes, no matter how much I love my neighbors, I just don’t want to talk to anyone. Thankfully, with my treadmill, even if I’m not feeling social I can still run and not break my schedule. I enjoy hobby that can be social, but only when I want it to be.
6. Events are low pressure
When I first started getting into running, I would avoid official events for fear of talking to strangers and feeling inadequate. Thankfully, when I took a deep breath and registered for a simple 10k, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. Everyone there was friendly and helpful, and even when I had to stop and walk for a little bit, I didn’t feel judged or looked down on. It was a great first experience that has been duplicated many times with each event I’ve been to since.
7. Group runs are fun
After a few big events, I decided to try a more personal approach to the running culture and tried a group run. I didn’t do the whole thing–it was much too long for me–but the group leader had the whole path clearly marked into sections that made it easy for me to break apart from the group without feeling like a quitter. While I was there, the run was fun and made me feel like I was really a part of a community, and I’ve done at least one group run per season since then.
8. It’s taught me some science
Picking up running again has refreshed the anatomy and energy production knowledge that I forgot after high school as well as taught me more. Now I can describe exactly how each part of my body works to keep me running and where the power comes from. It might bore my family, but in practise, having scientific knowledge of what to do and eat to power up my body is useful information.
9. Runner culture is welcoming
Ever since I started going to more events and talking to other runners online, it’s struck me how friendly and welcoming everyone is. We’re all just people looking to go fast and it’s nice to have such simple thing to bond over.
10. It’s for me
Above all, when I run, it’s for me. No teachers screaming at me, no guidelines telling me exactly when and how and how fast to run, no crushing pressure of flunking a class–just me. Now that the physical act of picking up one foot and putting it down in front of the other is something that I’m doing on my own time, at my own pace, and because I want to do it, it’s no longer horrible. Taking something that I used to dread on a daily basis and reclaiming it into something that I genuinely enjoy doing for myself has been a reward a thousand times over and honestly the biggest reason why I love running so much now.