My family are runners.
At one point, I felt like it was so ingrained into their genes, handed down through generations, that I questioned if I’d been swapped at birth. Not a part of this running group of mad men who enter multiple 10ks or marathons like they are ordering shopping from Amazon. Even participating a Marathon Des Sables – the ‘toughest footrace on Earth.’ A breed of people I did not understand. Nor did I want to be.
I was not a runner.
Yes, I said ‘was.’ Past tense. Because, as much as I’ve avoided it all my life (I even used to cycle as a tubby kid, lazily peddling next to my dad as he did a run beside me,) I succumbed to the siren call, purchased running shoes and started small. I became a part of the family.
We can blame Covid. Obviously. Gyms shut, lifelines were cut and a beautiful park that I had no time for before, was now my only saving grace. My haven. Perhaps part out of fear of losing that gym progress and part out of struggling with my mental health, I decided not to run away from issues, but ran towards them.
Now, reader, this is not a ‘brag’ piece about how good of a runner I am. I am not. I do not do marathons and nor do I want to. I’m pretty sure I can’t. But what it is, is an enlightenment. For years, I didn’t understand the obsession with running. Runners high, entering races, fun runs or anything else linked to putting one foot in front of the other and pounding the pavement. I didn’t see it as a way of keeping fit or ‘sane,’ or a tool that I could use to help clear my mind. Instead, I thought people ran because they liked it, loved it perhaps. And I didn’t. I never had. I was sure I never would.
Because running is hard.
Yet here I am. I now run a few times a week, mainly a 5k here or there, and slowly I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with it. And that’s what it is. A relationship that you have to work at, not easy and often slow to start, boring at times. And, well, amazing.
Bloody brilliant, in fact.
The world has become obsessed with afternoon jogs, park runs, couch to 5k’s and joining running clubs (yes, I saw your post on Instagram, well done you.) We have moved out of a pandemic where we had limited fitness options, and yet, still find that our feet are firmly staying in those training shoes.
So why are we so addicted?
Ex-reality TV star and fitness influencer, Joshua Patterson, recently ran 76 Marathons in 76 Days across 76 UK cities, attempting to raise an incredible amount of money for the Samaritans. When I read that, my jaw dropped. How?
With a mission statement that looks ‘to change how society perceives mental illness and inspire mankind to find their strength to achieve the impossible,’ I realised that the frankly incredibly fit super-human, was doing just that. Changing opinions. Regardless of the amazing efforts and money Josh raised, he was acknowledging that we suffer. We have since before the Covid years, during and now after. And running, that weird thing that we do where everyone has different styles, paces or arm movements, helps.
So, reader, I know why I run. Why I’m obsessed and feel I need it in my life. It’s because of my mental health. My mind.
The link is clear. Exercise promotes a more positive mental condition. Endorphins flow, ‘you time’ is achieved, and doing something outside away from modern tech, alone, increases our mental well-being.
My uncle Bob has been running since his early 20s. However, he didn’t become obsessed with it until into his 50s when he claims to have had a ‘mid-life crisis,’ along with a run in with Prostate Cancer. Now, he has ran over 40 marathons – including Ultras – and runs home from work instead of commuting for fun… Insane.
“Part of it was general fitness but running becomes addictive. I realised that I got a huge buzz from it and get noticeably more depressed when I don’t run. For me, it’s meditation. After going through cancer, call it denial of death, you want to be remembered for something by someone. You want to push yourself and achieve more.”
Using running as a valuable outlet, Bob also claims that social media has a part to play in the influence to run, “I used to run races with my brothers in the past with only 50 people. Now those races have hundreds and are all over subscribed – due to social media and the hype around it. Everyone seems to have gotten into it, it really does help your mental state of mind.”
My family are runners, and now I guess, so am I.
My mental wellbeing needs it, my overall fitness benefits from it and I don’t always love it, but I understand why I do it. Whether it’s 1k or 15k, with a friend, group or solo, whatever we do, whatever hill we climb, it helps.
Start small, walk in-between if you need to, do as much or as little as you want. Because anything helps. You might not run 76 marathons or even one, but you do feel good for just being a part of this race.
The world is obsessed with it, but maybe that’s ok. Maybe it helps us. And what a race it can be.