What is it about running?

Last night I had a very vivid dream and it started me thinking and wondering.

In my dream a doctor had given me a clean bill of health and then he looked at one of my toes and a nail had fallen off. (All my toes are fine by the way)

His response to this was to tell me I could never ever run again, to which I started to cry uncontrollably. I then woke up.

Now I know my brain is getting ready for a period of non running next year after an op and I'm fine with that but it started me thinking why is running and the thought of it being taken away so emotive.

I have done some form of exercise for most of my adult life and I've swapped and changed my preferred exercise. If at any time in the past I would if been told I couldn't swim, Crosstrain, weight train or any of the many exercises I have done, I would of just swapped to something else.

But I know if I was told I couldn't run again it would have a massive impact on me

So why is running so different? I get the feeling from many on this forum its the same for you too. What is mentally so different about running that seems to take us from exercisers to athletes on the way we view our sport.

Has any one got any ideas what happens to us when we start to learn to run and why it is so different to anything we could of done before?

27 Replies

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  • I think it has something to do with progression. I personally don't see many things in my life where I can improve myself as much as I can with my running. The crazy plans I have in my head for more races and faster times - I know they are largely achievable, and I don't think I can say that about many of the other things I do in life. The effort and time needed to make these improvements (training plans for marathons in my case) has come to fill up some corners of my life that would feel very empty without them. If I couldn't run I would replace the time with walking and a little swimming, and reap many of the same fitness and meditative benefits. But I think that an essential spark would be gone.

  • So well put. It's that spark isn't it. It's bigger than any exercise I have had before.

  • It's funny that when I initially graduated the C25K my only plan was to get faster at 5k so that running would take up LESS of my time. That idea certainly didn't last long. Mind you, the more hours I added on, the quicker my 5k got :D

  • I remember work getting very busy during my 9 weeks, and I kept thinking "if only I can get through these 9 weeks so I'll be able to run for 30 minutes, then I'll be set". Now 30 minutes is rarely enough for a "fix" of the runner's high :)

  • Definitely!

  • I think roseabi is spot on.

    Additionally, I think it has to do with the huge sense of achievement from having gotten to here. I never thought I could run. I hated it in school. I hated it when I did my service. I came up with all sorts of excuses and reasons and ways to avoid any kind of running. So now going out just for the fun of it, and enjoying it, is just absolutely amazing. If I were unable to run, I would lose that sense of achievement, and I think that is one of the reasons why it would suck so much.

  • Our sub conscious is a powerful thing isn't it? The same subconscious that rears those gremlins and then sends them packing!

    But it is your determination that will get you through this stage in your life Rfc. You have that in bucket loads. It's that determination that has turned you into a runner. It is that determination that has led you to opt for this very important surgery, bringing about the most wonderful gift you can give. Because of that same determination you will be back to running as soon as is safely possible. I have no doubt about that.

    I will have you in my thoughts when the surgery goes ahead, as you know we are kindred spirits in this type of journey.

    During your post surgery recovery I will take you along on my shoulder when I run and will show you my favourite routes. And I think many others on this forum will be happy to do the same!

    I wish you and your family well over coming months Rfc xx

  • aww Jacs thank you so very much. Such kind words. We are in a holding pattern at the moment which is comforting, frustrating and scary all at the same time. I will look forward to me runs on your shoulder😀. All the best to you all. RFCxxx

  • It will all come good! Trust in your expert clinical team and stay strong xx

  • It's the one thing we do - imho - where we are truly on our own. Maybe a more expensive pair of running shoes would make a long term difference I suppose - but on each individual run, we are truly on our own possibly for the only time in our lives.

    That can be an exhilarating experience, or a terrifying one - or a mixture of both....but whatever it is, we are very aware of who we really are for some amount of time no matter how infinitesimal..

  • Yes I agree with that, it's my ME time and it's so important to me, sometimes I work out things that have been bothering me, sometimes I'm angry when I've been procrastinating (hehe, yes into use running to put thing off I should be doing😀). Some days it's just plain fun.

  • I think it is because humans are hard wired to run. It's only all that "Don't run" we get as children that undoes it.

  • I like that thought. It's like we have found a piece of us that is missing.

  • Running has become very important for me - because it is basically the first and only exercise that I have ever done since I was a teenager. The adage that the very best exercise programme that you can do is the one that you keep on doing really really applies to me. I don't like exercising and , although I have tried out going to gyms over the past several decades, I have never kept it up and I know that I never will. So running for me is very much my last chance to retain what I have - physical fitness of a level which is rarely seen in 99% of my fellows, aged as I am . This week I ran 5K with an aged fellow from parkrun at a pace which was around the pace of my parkrun PB. I think this too fast pace probably contributed to my fall. But I picked myself up and despite the physical pain , I not only completed the run but challenged him to a sprint home in the last 200 metres. I can run quite fast when I want to over short distances - and we averaged a sub-4 minute pace such that when we stopped we were exhausted , breathing extremely heavily, could hardly stand up - and laughing our heads off. The younger ones there could only look in astonishment at us!! :)

    Yes - I think I will cry the day I have to give up running :)

  • Bazza I'm sure your going to one of the ones the younger one are in awe of who is still doing parkrun into your 100's. There is always so much you can choose to do with running as well, intervals, sprints, hill training to name a few, it's hard to get bored.

  • Also - I am now mixing with a bunch of the most enthusiastic and non-judgemental people I have ever experienced before. parkrunners - and people I will probably never meet in places like this forum. My running journey has been a most amazing experience - and people I know who don't run just don't understand what is happening/has happened to me. !! :)

  • There really is a understanding side to running. If I meet a new person and they run, that's it, we could talk for hours.

  • If I had to stop running I would be devastated too. It is where I let go of frustration and recharge my mental batteries. I think it has to do with the combination of vigorous exercise and being outdoors, because hiking long distances with a backpack does the same for me as running, but a 1-2 hour walk is not enough, I have to walk for ages to achieve the mental calmness and physical relaxation that a run gives me. And a swim or a trip to the fitness center is almost disturbing in comparison. All those people (strangers) around, noise, smells... yak! I really love getting outside, breathing the fresh air, feeling the sun or the rain on my face, and forgetting everything else.

    And as Bazza1234 has also experienced - running has introduced me to a lot of wonderful new people that I would never have met if it wasn't for our common interest in running.

  • I agree I had never really participated in outdoor exercise apart from walking but I have gone from someone who loved going into the gym to someone who prefers being outdoors, there is just something that is added in extra to a run outdoors.

  • I think for me it's the places it takes me. I've done all sorts of exercise regimes over the years, weight training gave me the physique I wanted, belly dance made me more supple, but swimming was my passion. I had to give that up, and now I can't think of anything more boring than looking at a tiled pool floor for an hour or more...running for me is about where I go and what I see, being out in the fresh air and different types of weather. I've lived in Cambridge for 25 years, but I've seen more of it in the last couple of years, stuff I never knew existed. It always amazes me that I can leave the city centre and be out in the countryside in 10 minutes. I rarely do nonstop running, there's always something to enjoy and take photos of.

  • There is always so much to see, for me I love seeing all the dogs in the park they just seem to be having the best fun. We have similar backgrounds on the exercise front. I can still swim but I agree I find it hard to fit in going to the pool but can find time for a 1.5 - 2 hour run when I'm distance training,I find itamazing how i find the time to do the things i want. 😀.

  • I've read all the replies so far and agree with everyone on the reasons for loving running. But the thought that it's been totally my own efforts and that I'm in control totally reasonates with me. I spend the rest of my time being an employee , wife, daughter and mother, when I'm running, I'm just me.

  • I totally get that. It's the time I remember who I am and have a bit of space to think about what I want for me. It's like it's almost not allowed at other times but when on a run its all about me and that fine. Oh and everyone on here as that's when I come up with my posts and think about my fellow runners and what the forum can do to help.

  • I wonder if it's also the variety and flexibility. Everyone can be successful - tall, small, young, old, fast, slow. It is truly inclusive yet it's just you. You don't rely on a team and don't have to rely on others ,although social running is good too. You can do it anywhere. You don't need a pitch, a court, a room or equipment. You can do it early or late at night, in sun, wind, snow, rain. You can set off when it suits you, you don't have to make a booking or start at a particular time. You can do it from your back door. You can go fast, slow, up, down, for a quick run or a long run. It's you against yourself. I don't know if anyone finds it easy, therefore there's a huge sense of achievement. Add in the endorphins, vitamin d, head space and fresh air, you can't lose! I think we're converts!

  • I've never stuck at any form of exercise in my whole life but I like running for all the reasons above.

    It's easy to fit in around four children and a full time job. I can't, hand on heart, say that I don't have time to pop out for half an hour or so of an evening. If I played hockey or something I'd need to find lots of other like-minded people and we'd all need to be available at the same time.

    I love fresh air. It's a tad TOO fresh at the moment but that's been an interesting challenge in its way.

    I enjoy coming up with nice new routes, or trying routes I did before and seeing if I can do them more quickly.

    I like that it's MY effort alone that gets me round the run. I quite like cycling but I feel less of a sense of achievement because the bike has helped!

    I don't always like running while I'm doing it, especially during the first ten minutes, but sometimes I just feel so comfortable that I'm on a total high.

    I like that although I can mostly go out on my own and think about stuff, I can also intersperse that with parkrun or big events which have such a buzz. And likewise, mostly I'm only competing with myself but occasionally I can compete with others just to see what that feels like.

    I like that it's more or less free. I like that a lot. :)

    The last reason will make me sound like a total weirdo and may get me thrown off the forum, but here goes.... I like the feel of my changed legs! I have to stop myself feeling them sometimes... :)

  • That last bit... Me, I like that when I look down now I see much more of the ground :)

  • Haha, yes, me too! :)

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