I never thought I'd be a runner. Playing the sports that I did growing up, distance running was always used as a punishment. Racing around the bases, going for an inside the park home run was as far as I ever cared to go.
I don't really even know why I started running. I'm sure at the time it was just an activity to lose weight and improve overall health. When I first started, I hated the act of running for distance. It was slow, it was painful and it was boring. A short while after that though, I absolutely fell in love with the sport.
The initial benefits are obvious. If you start to seriously train as a runner, you will lose weight, strengthen muscles, improve cardiovascular health, and just simply feel better than when you began. The physical benefits are great, but this is not what makes me get excited for long, painful runs.
Running has a way of humbling you. It breaks you down and exposes you. You are all alone with just your thoughts. The longer I run, the more I feel a sense of clarity. Running brings me a gratefulness and purpose that no other activity has ever brought to me. When you set out to run 10 miles, you have nowhere to go. Your only options are to find a way to cover the 10 miles, or find a way to quit. It's simply yourself vs the 10 miles of pavement. I often ask myself during painful runs, "who is tougher, you or the pavement"?.
When a run gets very tough, you quickly realize there is no way out of it. Your brain will calm itself to figure out the problem of how to complete the run. In doing this, your brain will find a way to shut down all the outside feelings of stress, anxiety, depression and worry. Your brain and body will focus itself on the singular mission of completing the run. There is no room for any other problems. It's very difficult to stress over any other issue in your life while your calves are screaming in pain, lungs are begging for relief and your feet are exhausted and swollen. That is why I love running.
While the physical aspects of the sport are important, distance running is a mental game. For every muscle that running makes stronger, nothing compares to the strengthening of the mind that takes place as you evolve as a runner. I truly believe the art of distance running is a remedy for many mental health issues. It simplifies life into an equation of a problem, then a solution, and then accomplishment. Each and every run does this for me. It gives me a problem, a struggle, something I might not even want to do. Then through strength, determination, sweat and grit, the problem eventually gets solved. After solving the problem of a run, I always feel the sense of accomplishment. Nobody else in the world may care or even know that I just tackled a painful 13 mile run, but it means something to me. I know the effort it took, the pain I overcame and the feeling of euphoria the moment created.
I love the problem solving of running. When things are difficult as a runner, so many thoughts and ideas pass through the brain. From nutrition, training, planning, recovery, gear etc. The reason I love this problem solving aspect is because it is always so simple. No matter how many ideas may come about to be a better runner or how to reach the final distance, the solution is always the same...
"Left foot, right foot, repeat".
Tyson and I racing his 1st 2 miler last March
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