90% of the time that I am running, I hate running. Ok, “hate” is a strong word but I really don’t enjoy it… perhaps an odd thing to open with given that this is meant to be a blog about the benefits of running. But let’s face it, what’s to enjoy? My lungs burn, my knee twinges, my feet are shredded after long distances, and occasionally I catch sight of my reflection in a shop window: a horrifying sweaty mess, shuffling along with lycra clinging in all the unforgiving places. So when my girlfriend’s first sleepy words are “enjoy your run, babe” as I lump out of bed in the morning and she rolls back over, my usual response is “unlikely, but I’ll try”.
And yet I truly believe that running helped (and continues to help) save me from the lingering dark cloud of depression.
- Running is a goal
I am an over-achiever, I will pretty much do anything for a certificate and I definitely don’t google what the finisher’s medal for a run I have signed-up to looks like (except I do). The trouble with being goal-oriented is that, without a goal, things can seem frustratingly pointless. Running gives me a goal, whether that’s a distance to cover or a PB to smash, and sometimes that’s the light in the dark.
- Running is a lesson in humility (and being kind to myself!)
Bad runs happen… except no one wants to post a bad run on social media (#trippedoverthecurb) so we can be forgiven for thinking we’re alone on those days. It’s so much easier for everyone else, isn’t it? They’re so much faster. They’re not in pain. They didn’t make a bad underwear choice and keep stopping to remove a wedgie. But running taught me to accept that the bad runs happen, they’re not a sign of failure, and so I should be kind to myself when they do… and think ahead on underwear.
- Running is my relationship with my body
So much of my depression stems from not liking my body. I wasn’t proud of it, I didn’t trust it, and I couldn’t see why anyone else would want to be close to it. Running helps me build a better relationship with my body; I take care of it and love it a little more than I did. My legs hurt after 8 miles but they will carry me on if I tell them, my feet will heal and my 32-year-old body can run 13.1 miles faster than my 28-year-old body could. We’re getting there.
- Running is exploration
My running shoes are the first thing packed in my bag when I go on holiday. Running in new places has shown me some of the most beautiful things: my favourite beach in the world, city streets before the rest of the world has woken, hidden artworks, perfect little cafes.
- Running is freedom
I don’t mean this in an abstract, metaphysical way. Right now, they world is in lockdown. We are necessarily curtailing our own liberties to try and save lives during a pandemic. It’s the right thing to do, of course it is, but I am climbing the walls! There is only so much Netflix a girl can watch and every day is a battle to stay out of the fridge. But my morning run has taken out a whole new meaning. Now it’s not just to keep fit or train for the next run; it’s a chance to be outside and be immersed in the world for a little while before locking down again.
So, no, I don’t love running. I don’t adore the act of putting one foot in front of the other at speed. But I do love what running does for me and those are more than enough reasons to keep running.