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When it comes to the “why” of running, everyone has a different answer. People run for weight loss, for fitness, for alone time—the reasons, and what running gives to us, are infinite. And the only requirement of being a runner is to, well, run. Your speed, your distance, your history; none of that matters, so long as you’re lacing up.
In our latest book club discussion, ultrarunner Hillary Allen shared that she takes her “why” very seriously. “It’s something I ask myself everyday: ‘Why am I doing this? Why do I want to?'” she said. “If I can’t answer that question—’Oh, I don’t know, I feel like I have to’—then I know I need to reevaluate.”
Discovering your “why” can help you connect with running and spark motivation. So what does is really mean to be a runner? Jonathan Levitt, host of “For the Long Run” podcast, asked his 15,000 Twitter followers, and he got some great answers. We’ll be turning to these whenever we need a little more inspiration behind the “why.”
That it's something I genuinely enjoy doing, and part of my identity. Even when it's hard, it's joyful. When I don't do it, I feel not myself.
It's not just exercise (punitive) or about managing weight (prescriptive).
— Colleen Stone (@colleenstone) May 10, 2021
“Even when it’s hard, it’s joyful,” might become our new mantra. New York Times opinion writer Lindsay Crouse defines running succinctly (Crouse wrote a great piece on trans rights and really “saving” women’s sports.)
running is freedom
— Lindsay Crouse (@lindsaycrouse) May 10, 2021
Sasha Wolff, founder of Still I Run, highlighted the importance of running on mental health.
Oh man… all the things. As you know, running to me is life in that it helps complete my mental health toolkit and makes me the healthiest I can be on a mental level!
— Sasha Wolff (@SashaWolff) May 10, 2021
Mental health is a common draw; Tara Morgan finds it helps her mentally in more ways than one. (Read more about how to boost running’s calming effects here).
To blow off steam, to relieve stress or anxiety, to get out of my head, to find happiness, to prove to myself how strong I am. 💪
— Tara Morgan (@tarawsyx6) May 10, 2021
Esther Atkins, a sub 3 marathoner and running coach out of South Carolina, went more concrete, highlighting the knowledge running can give us.
Knowing how to use a watch to time and pace your runs.
Knowing how to run with others (even if you choose not to).
Knowing a little about the sport and what paces and times mean and the ability to imagine what any given race or effort might feel like.
— Esther Atkins (@ErbyAtkins) May 10, 2021
Several people used the words “joy” and “alive” to describe how being a runner makes them feel.
The first word that pops into my head is “joy”. The joy of moving my body. The joy of seeing familiar places and discovering new ones. The joy of feeling connected to a community. The joy of cheering for others. The joy of being in awe of others.
— Jenn Jenn (@tellmeastory314) May 11, 2021
Whenever I run, I feel free, healthy & alive ! ♥️ 🏃🏽♀️
— Doaa Alsaleh, MD, MSCR (@doaalsaleh) May 10, 2021
This experience, from @runyogadoughnut (yes, please), encapsulates how running can start as one thing and shift your mind and body, becoming something else entirely.
I started running after a major weightloss because I needed a mental shift. I needed to find joy in my body rather than always being angry at it. Guess what, it worked! I haven't kept all the weight off, but really don't care that much anymore because I am a strong runner!
— MK (@runyogadoughnut) May 10, 2021
And Kristin Jenny, triathlete and author of this handy guide to fitting in a workout no matter the time of day, is on our same wavelength. You’re a runner if you run!
Getting out there and showing up, not letting your ego get in the way. I get so sad when someone says they won’t run near/with others because they are too “slow” or don’t “look like a runner.” You’re a runner if ya run!
— Kristin Jenny (@k_jenny7) May 10, 2021