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Experiencing the Runner’s High: Why We Run

People sometimes ask me why I run. Why I choose to do what others see as pointless, unncessary, painful, dissatisfying, tiresome, and difficult. Why I chose a sport that is, as runners often joke, the punishment of other sports. Running is simple; it’s just that. There isn’t much equipment, you don’t have to catch or throw anything, and even if you lack simple coordination skills you are okay; moving your feet one after the other isn’t too tough. There is no team, people say, but I think it’s just the opposite. I think that what makes running so much fun is the fact that every runner is on the same team.

Runners High

Image Credit: Blake O’Neal

We are all connected in this never ending circle, and can relate to each other, laugh at something we are familiar with or have done before, and push each other by working out together. In running, teammates, are all around you. Sometimes in a class, like the program I coach at Potomac River Running, you get lucky enough to meet people who change from being your teammates to your friends to basically like family. It’s this bond and this connection that makes running one of the strongest and ever growing sports, especially once you pass through college and enter the real world.

There isn’t much equipment you need other than a good pair of trainers (running shoes), and a pair of shorts, in the summer at least. In the winter you do need to buy running clothes to keep warm, but compared to other sports, it really doesn’t require much. Sure, like in any sport, there are additionals you can buy to enhance your running, like gels and bars and expensive outfits by Nike or Brooks, but they aren’t required. Running is easy like that; it’s pure and simple. It’s something that anyone can do, no matter your age. However, I can’t tell you the amount of times that I, as a running coach, have heard the phrase and excuse, “But I’m not a runner!”

The conversation goes a little like this (myself being the first voice): “Do you have two feet?” “Well, yes…” They reply quietly. I respond, “And can you move those feet?” “Well, yes… ,” they grumble reluctantly. “Than, YOU, my friend, are very much indeed a runner,” I reply with certainty and force, ending all question of them ever using that excuse again.

It’s a true statement. There is no such thing as a person that is “not a runner.” We are all runners. If you have two feet, and those two feet work, than you can be a runner. Walking is just the downsized form of running, so if you can only walk right now, don’t fret; you’re half way there. Small steps, consistently and over an extended period of time, will get you somewhere eventually. The key is to keep taking those small steps, and to trust the process. No matter the size, progress is progress, and if you’re moving forward you’re going in the right direction.

Running, just like life, constantly challenges us. It constantly tells us “No”, “Slow Down”, and “You can’t do this.” And the greatest feeling of all is when we triumph over running, and we show with action, and example, that we can indeed do this, we aren’t going to slow down, and that the only answer is “yes”. We start to believe again, like we used to as kids in Santa Clause and the tooth fairy, except this magic is something that we know exists.

Conquering the common fear of failure is something that runners know too well. Fear of not achieving your goals, of falling short, of putting in the work only to see your tower crumble into a million pieces. It’s hard to explain fear, to begin with, because it’s not really something real. It’s like a ghost in the night, a gust of wind in the dark that rips loud and sharp, like the screech of nails down a chalkboard; but you can’t see it. It’s invisible, and when you reach out your hands to touch it your fingers pass through it. To others, it doesn’t exist. But to you, you see it very well, and it follows you around daily, murming negative thoughts in your head about failure and dissapointment.

Running teaches you not only how to beat fear, but how to smack it in the face and to tell it to “be gone” forever. It teaches you that fear can be overcome, and that really, it doesn’t exist. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and with running you get exactly what you put into it. It makes the equation simple, and makes you wish that only life worked that way too. Hard work + Dedication = Guaranteed Success. So we breathe, we believe, and we achieve, and in life, there really isn’t anything better than that.

Motivational Quotes on Running:

“You have to wonder at times what you’re doing out there. Over the years, I’ve given myself a thousand reasons to keep running, but it always comes back to where it started. It comes down to self-satisfaction and a sense of achievement.” – Steve Prefontaine

“I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” – Jesse Owens

“The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” – Juma Kiangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” – Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find what we are really made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” – PattiSue Plumer, U.S. Olympian

“Believe that you can run farther or faster. Believe that you’re young enough, old enough, strong enough, and so on to accomplish everything you want to do. Don’t let worn-out beliefs stop you from moving beyond yourself.” – John Bingham, runner speaker and writer

“Running is a big question mark that’s there each and every day. It asks you, ‘Are you going to be a wimp or are you going to be strong today?” – Peter Maher, Canadian marathon runner

“Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’ The answer is usually: ‘Yes’.” – Paul Tergat, Kenyan professional marathoner

“We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves… The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, ‘You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.’ The human spirit is indomitable.” – Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

Breathe, Believe, Achieve.


About the Author

Kelly is a staff writer here at “The Hudsucker”. She is currently a senior at George Mason University finishing up her B.A. in English and writes at her own blog, “How I See It“. Kelly hopes to be a professional writer and author some day that not only inspires but helps change the world for the better. Follow Kelly on Twitter as @Kelly_Kavanaugh.

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