What are we running for? Why do we run?

I am interested in why we are here and why we run. Having graduated and enjoyed the structure of the C25K which is has been fantastic for building up my stamina, endurance and fitness, I have now finished a week of doing 5k in just over 30 minutes. I'm finding it a bit of struggle, and really not much fun.

I answered AliB's question earlier today about losing her running "mojo" with an answer that I myself haven't actually tried yet. In my answer, I described that I had been inspired by what I had read about the Tahahamura and why they run. They run because of the pure joy of it, not for medals, money, slimming, a toned bottom etc etc. I signed up for a 10k race in January because deep down inside I knew I needed to shift some weight (around 2 stones) and then it dawned on me how much training I would need to do in order to complete this race in any sort of decent time. I set myself a goal of an hour. So far, I am almost on track, doing 5k in just over 30 minutes.

However, mentally, I'm finding it a hard old slog, there is no fun involved. I am a slave to my own targets. I set mapmyrun to tell me every 0.5 km how far I've gone and in what time. Psycholgically it feels like such a drag...."when can I finish?" What kind of slave am I becoming to myself ? I was reminded in the book "Born to Run" about how our parents always told us to slow down because we were always going too fast, be it on foot or on a bike or swimming in the sea. As children we are, on the whole, acting by instinct. We have no concept of who is looking at us, judging us, or judging ourselves as we run around the playground burning off energy, barely able to contain ourselves with the joy of physical exertion.

If I have learnt anything about life so far, it's to trust in my gut instinct. I know now that for me, I cannot sustain my new interest in running if I treat it as a means to an end...another race, a smaller size in jeans. I want to recapture that feeling I know I had as a child who loved to run around, skip, swing as high as I could on the swings, get dizzy on the roundabout...and it never once felt like hard work or a chore....

Why do *you* run?

28 Replies

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  • when I started this it was purely because the most I could run on my own was 1min40seconds before collapsing in a heap on the treadmill. c25k gave me 30mins running. then b210k gave me a much needed challenge. I started a 10mile plan inside & got to 8miles & gave up. mainly as I was trying outside running, which I absolutely love. I am now redoing that plan from the beginning, but this time outside.

    I like goals :) but & a big BUT I love the freedom of running. if I have any worries they disappear when I run. I now nEEd to run. for me :) I have found that it really de-stresses me. & more often than not I feel as if I can do anything once Ive finished. I recently had a week off when life took over & really missed my running. I felt bloated & lethargic & stressed out & snappy.

    today I ran for an hour. I havent done that for ages & although the first 20mins were tough the rest I just "zoned" out. it was pure heaven. & the first time I ventured out when it was raining hard.

    for me, it is Me time. time to reflect & time to get away from it all :)

  • I hear ya, Misstrolly. i have just finished the program and enjoyed the challenge, but not the runs a whole lot. It really was a struggle for me. Now i plan to run at least once next week with some nice tunes and not worry about distance or time. It will be interesting to see if that changes things. I know good tunes makes being stuck in traffic a lot more pleasant. We'll see how it goes with running.

  • I'm doing it because I want to do something that is just for myself. The goals (being toned, a race) are important because they are accountability checks, but in the end of the day, I just want to prove to myself that I can do it. I also feel like I have come so far already I don't want to give up now! We'll see how easy this is to sustain, but I'm hoping the programme is habit-forming, so it'll be routine to keep going. I, like you, don't think I will ever really enjoy this sport - but hope that it might be a means to an end of me attaining a higher fitness level and being able to find a sport that I do enjoy ultimately.

  • I started it after coming across the site accidently. I've always had the mentality "I don't do running" In the past i built up to 15 mins on the treadmill, tried outside twice and it was a disaster, the 2nd time i swallowed a fly and that was the end of that! I thought huh I bet it doesn't work, I bet I don't keep it up. My, what a surprise, I became hooked. To be honest I sometimes don't "enjoy" it and find it a bit of a slog but then other times it's great but always without fail I feel elated when i've completed a run. I like the way I am getting more toned without hours in the gym, I love what I have achieved and feel really proud of myself. My goal now is to complete the B210k plan. I have to pinch myself to beleive that I am in this position. My motivation now is I don't want to let it slide, I feel fitter too. I wasn't totally unfit before, because I do go to the gym but I had lost my motivation for that; I was getting bored, the instructor has now devised a new plan for me to complement the running and to be honest that has really helped. I suppose the bottom line is proving to myself that I can do it

  • I agree with all your reasons and the ones in the answers above... (Incidentally I've just started to read born to run on your recommendation, too, after reading the post you refer to! It IS weird how compulsive the whole thing becomes...)

    Physical and mental health, personal responsibility and a sense of achievement... there's no denying its a MASSIVE slog at times (pathetic, I know buy I've been known to weep all the way out of the door, so reluctant am I to get going!) but the rewards far outweigh the effort to overcome.

  • I started running after a serious illness (breast cancer)to build body confidence and try to trust my body! The running "reasons" are now changing week by week as I can run more distances/speeds!, this is a journey, and I now run because I can think or not think, enjoy the "weeeeee" of running down hills, look at the trees/sky/people, avoid dogs (and geese recently). I can meditate, get to that glorious running place where you dont quite know how you got from a-b. I recently joined a running class and now do fartlek/strength building in local park with 6 others so is social & I can keep up! Who knows where this will all lead, a 5k & 10k race booked, butthat is to experience the social side/thrill of running with others really. It is not the means to an end..as there is no "end" otherwise you go for longer & longer/faster runs forever! Its about how you feel today on your next run :) gosh, philosophical, need a cuppa!

  • Great question. My normal regular run is 7.5 miles, this is what it means to me. .....

    1. Physically

    Raised heartbeat

    Strengthening my bones

    Strengthening my ligaments, tendons around my ankles

    Weight control - a nice steady 10st 7lbs seems about right

    Better, deeper sleep - this is blissful!

    Listening to my body breathing, working, being in tune - perhaps this is what people who do yoga talk about

    I am more healthy than I was 20 years ago .

    2.Mentally

    The Runner's High - wow what can I say? I sometimes feel so elated, so much on top of the world, happy and able to handle anything

    Feel unbeatable

    Problem solving; working through problems

    Seeing things clearly

    Makes me feel alive!

    I feel great all day if I run early in the morning

    Keeping things in perspective

    De-stressing myself - the main motivation that got me going originally

    3. The sheer joy of it

    Listening to the sound of gravel dancing behind me, following my footsteps

    Listening to the rhythm of my footsteps - almost hypnotic

    Listening to music on my ipod

    Being the first to run through the new day

    The challenge of it

    The satisfaction of it

    Where does this path lead...?

    Every run is different

    The smells in the woods, the pockets of cool air on a summer's evening

    The different seasons

    Running along the edge of fields and noticing how crops have grown, changed colour

    Running through puddles, feeling the water splash my legs and make my feet wet for a bit

  • If this was Facebook I would 'Like' this. :)

  • Love this post, can relate to most of it, looking forward to relating to all of it!

  • I couldn't have put it better. Thank you Mr. Ramblings.

  • Brilliant ! Sums it all up !

  • Wow! What a question!

    I started this programme a few days after Christmas. I lost my Mum in June last year to lung cancer and was feeling very low - the weight had piled on considerably with the stress of her illness and death and I hated the way I looked and the way I felt. I was a size 18 and had never enjoyed any sort of exercise.

    I saw a friend who was midway through post on facebook, and I wondered if I could do it, but suspected that I couldn't and that I would, more than likely, fail.

    However, I bought the running shoes and requested the MP3 player for Christmas and decided to give it my best shot.

    I told myself that the aim was to do 30 minutes of exercise, 3 times a week, and that might help me to lose weight but would most certainly improve my fitness.

    The sense of achievement in getting through the programme without too many deviations or delays was incredible. It had an instant effect on my mood - allowing me time to myself to think while I ran and giving me some confidence and self esteem.

    Since graduating, I can't say I really enjoy the running, but people have said I'm "glowing" on days when I've run in the morning, and it is most definately helping the weightloss (along with weightwatchers) so this is an added incentive.

    I'm nowhere near running 5k and this frustrates me as I'd really like to run Race for Life in memory of my Mum in July.

    I also think I need to "mix it up" abit. I've run the same route since I started and am afraid to change it in case it jinxes me and means I won't be able to complete a 30 minute run! I need to have more confidence in my ability.

    I hope that's answered your question :0) - at the moment I'm torn between wanting another goal (the big 5k) or settling for the regular exercise without the pressure.

    Carol

  • I run because I'm amazed that I can.

    About 6 years ago I went to the gym regularly and gradually built up till I could jog on a treadmill for 20-25mins. I was surprised as I had never been able to run at school and was not good at sports. I tried to jog outdoors but never really succeeded at this (so different to a treadmill). I also did a fun run for BHF - 3K- but had to walk some of the way. Was feeling good, but then my BH became seriously ill and a few months later my parent moved near me and needed care so just did not have time for the gym any more.

    Always wanted to get back to it, so when I retired a year ago I resumed back at the gym but never really got the 'buzz' I had previously. Also I had a bit of a heart scare and did not dare to do much till that was investigated. Then I read in the local paper that the local authority were going to do Run England runs for absolute beginners. I thought it sounded like just what I needed to spur me on. When I tried to join they were not up and running yet, so in the interim I found C25K on the internet and thought it would be just the thing to do till the 'official' group got started. Now I'm looking to do week3 and maybe I won't be an absolute beginner now when I go.

    I'm still amazed that I can jog and get a real endorphin high afterwards. How it will be when the novelty wears off and when the cold dark mornings arrive I don't know but at the moment its great.

    I think you have cited your own problem when you say you have become a slave to your own targets. I don't know the answer. You've graduated and I'm just a beginner but I hope you get the fun back into your run!

  • I have been asking myself this question. I'd been using walk4life for a while, I was dismayed to be told I was obese but I knew how hard it would be to shift the weight by diet alone (I have done it before, very sensibly but oh it required so much concentration) and I had a hunch that something might be improving in this stupid illness I have had for 30 years and I wanted to test that but was really struggling with walking more briskly on dog walks. I liked the way C25K was every other day and gradual (and TBH I had an iPhone I wasn't using to its full potential either!)

    However, now I've finished the programme I am struggling with the 'Fit for what?' question. I love getting out in the fresh air and moving and I've lost a bit of weight so that I am just bobbing under/over obese. But I really hoped I could make this translate into being more generally functional and so far I've not managed that. The running is good for my soul but my life is revolving round it. I'm not able to stay out of bed longer and I'm having to cut back on doing other things.

    And yet I am out there 'exposed' where some eejit with a videocamera could claim that I must be fit for work because there I am running (they never film the hours you are in bed, they never film the events you aren't at because you are not well enough (eg today) or how long it takes you to get downstairs and they certainly can't film the pain and 'brainfog')

    But I feel as though I have 'the bug' Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh!

  • This is an excellent question and I think the main reason for me is ............. because I can.

    I don't think you can beat it for the feeling of freedom, clearing your head from the stresses of the day and having that special period of time where you're almost detached from the world.

    Also the physical benefits are huge. There's no other sport that aids weightloss as much as running and getting out there 3 times a week adds, on average, 6 years to your life expectancy.

    The sense of achievement when you beat your PB, or you run further than you ever thought possible is immense and definitely, for me, gives me the 'runner's high' that everyone talks about.

    However, as valid as these points are, there are some days when it's tipping it down outside, or your legs are aching and arguing that they can't run one step further, or you just can't work out why your pace has dropped to that of a snail, and all the fun seems to have been sucked out of running and you wonder why you took it up in the first place.

    So I try to look at it this way....... do it because you CAN.

    You have an amazing body that lets you run, jump, skip etc. And there are so many people who don't have that opportunity, so make the most of what you've got.There'll be a day when shuffling to the front door seems like a marathon, so now, while you CAN run for 5/20/30 minutes, get out there, do it & smile because you can.

  • Great question. I started this programme running at 50 years of age, 35 years after I last willingly ran (the only game I liked in school was hockey), as part of my campaign to lose (once and for all) 5 stone of excess weight.

    The confidence and sense of pride I derive from having proven/proving to myself that I can do this permeates every part of my life!

    I used to call myself a yo yo dieter and a default couch potato. I now call myself a runner! What has amazed me is that as a result, my attitude to food has changed for the better. I now chose to eat and drink (mostly!) stuff that fits in with my aim of getting fitter and staying well (as opposed to my previous mindset of having to "diet" to lose weight which, once I got to a goal, proved unsustainable!).

    I may not want to go out on every run once it comes round, but once I am out there, it is fascinating to me! I love the sights i see on my runs, the changing flora and fauna. But most of all I love the actual moving! I love the challenge, for example, when you start off with heavy legs or a wheezy chest and have to use your mind and willpower just to keep moving, but then 20 mins in you suddenly realise your legs are just moving. Or when you start running in cold rain and 15 mins in think, this is great, the rain is keeping me cool. I will however NEVER love running in hailstorms lol!

  • hmmm, well, I think it changes from day to day and week to week but it started after listening to an interview with a sporting hero - Ronnie O'Sullivan and how he had taken to running as part of dealing with depression. He is seriously good folks, at running as well as snooker, and runs low 30 minute 10Ks! In one interview he reckoned that if he had to give up snooker or running it would be snooker that would go......

    Anyway I had (have) my brushes with depression and I did a lot of the right things but the last thing was to sort myself out physically having done little for many many years and if running was good for "The Rocket" then it was good enough for me.

    So that started me, I can't honestly remember how I came across this programme but somehow I did and being the geeky, stats boy that I am its scientific method appealed! So off I went under cover of darkness and sooner rather than later was completely hooked.

    Over the last year or so without wanting to repeat almost everything said on here so far:

    1) Self-esteem; which is where I came into the story its on going sense of achievement, continued challenges mental or physical or both and over coming them gives me a smug little internal (and sometimes external) glow!

    2) Health; lighter and leaner than I was. It has changed my eating habits and I have mostly stopped drinking because I am always concerned that the next glass of wine will be the one that spoils my run, and I won't have anything messing with my run!

    3) Me time. No mobile phone, no money, no music, no specific plan of where I am going to go so no one could find me if they wanted to I suspect, so it really is just me and my puffing and panting for an hour or so. A good change to just think, or not think whichever takes my fancy.

    4) A whole new relationship with clothes!

    5) Most importantly though now I can get a bit of distance going then I can use it just to explore. I try to mix up routes, terrains, weather conditions. I love a bit of cross country now though with the weather it hasn't been that appealing :-(

    Hey its just FUN! How else as a grown up do you get an excuse to go out and run through puddles, jump logs, get muddy, chase your mates around the woods and it has all of the benefits above! You can be a kid again and it is good for you :-D

    It has seriously become a way of life and I suspect I bore everyone around me with it :-)

    But need to catch up on the snooker.....Go Ronnie! 2 more frames for a place in the finals.

  • I like structure and I like to have goals. Without them I couldn't carry on running, because I would get bored, or aimless. The other day I went out just to run, but I couldn't just run, I had to have at least a time to go for or a distance, otherwise I'd just stop running without 'achieving' much.

    That to me is the enjoyment of running, reaching a goal, even if it's a couple of minutes longer than I did last time, or even if it's my heart rate being lower than last time. And it's all about filling in the stats.

    My husband thinks I'm crazy. He just gets up and runs. I put on my iPod with Nike+ and spend time getting the right music and the right programme organised. I put on my Garmin watch making sure the satellites are there, the heart rate monitor is working, remembering to press it at the beginning of the run, not the walk. I get my Powerade ready for when I've finished the run.

    I do the run.

    I take off my iPod and sync it with the Nike+ website. I take off my Garmin and upload the stats to the website. I fill in my running spreadsheet with the stats. I drink the Powerade whilst doing this. Funnily enough I'm not too bothered about the result of the stats, just the fact that I'm recording them.

    All this I LOVE doing. It's all part of the run for me. I enjoy the run for the run's sake, whether it's on the treadmill or outside in the park or round the lake or wherever. But the stats - well they are all part of the sense of achievement I feel, seeing what I've done on screen and I think that's what keeps me going :)

  • I'm no where near a seasoned runner. I've only just started week 3 of the C25K so feel free to take my comments with a pinch of salt or that newbie enthusiasm everyone has when they start something new but...

    I've wanted to learn to run for a few years now. I've never been an active person, never! I used to think of excuses to get out of PE at school, I used to avoid running for a bus or train thinking I'd much rather walk to the stop and wait 10 minutes for the next one.

    But 4 years ago, I started a new job. I drive to work (it's 10 miles from home to the office) and driving, I pass a fair few parks and commons. I always felt a slight bit of secret jealousy at those I'd see running in the park. I'd make remarks to my workmates along the lines of "ha! Look at those people running through the park, surely there's better things to do?"

    But the thought of them getting out for an hour or so a day, in the open fresh air, nothing to worry about except the potholes in the floor sounded strangely appealing.

    I've been overweight for pretty much most of my life, and incredibly self-concious too so it's those two things that really put me off running.. wondering what other people would think...

    Nearly 3 years ago, my wife gave birth to our first son and it was an amazing experience. It then hit me that it'd only be a couple of years before my son would want to run around the park playing football, and only a few more years before he'd start school. The last thing I'd want is for him to see his old man struggle to run around the park kicking a ball!

    So last year, I bought an iPod shuffle, loaded up the NHS podcasts and done nothing. Felt dissapointed for not even trying the podcasts but never saw myself as a runner.

    Christmas just gone saw the arrival of our second son. Our eldest is almost 3 and now is the time I've decided to get fit. After W1R2 I knew I was enjoying the running thing and I think I've caught the bug.

    The end goal obviously keeps me going along with the gamification of it and the community spirit here, it's all geared towards urging people to finish week 9! It's a great goal and achievement. Just need something to chase after the 5k!

  • I started running because I was really depressed and did not like leaving my flat.

    I decided I needed something that would push and motivate me back to my old self again. Not quite there yet, but I thanks C25K for making me feel a lot better than 2 months ago. Plus all the support from the members on here too.

    The runs make me feel so much better and its my way of working through things too.

  • I do it because I was sick of being busy all the time but with no time to do anything for myself, sick of feeling below par with no energy for anything other than work and the thought hanging over me that if I didn't do something to change things I would sooner or later become very ill as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle. have just graduated and will now focus for the next 9 weeks on running 5k in 30 minutes, also to focus more firmly on ww and weight loss.

    The very, very, best thing for me is when I'm driving to work the morning after a run, I can feel the lower stress levels like a tangible thing, it must have an effect on my blood pressure. I will keep running for this effect alone.

  • Great question. Yes I too am not sure I enjoy the actual run itself but do so to mainatin a level of health that I would not have otherwise. But I agree there needs to be more fun and enjoyment and perhaps you have not found the sport for you. Now I am fitter I can participate in activities that I do enjoy, such as cycling, hiking, canyonning.... Perhaps try something new?

  • I started running to help me lose weight as I had plateaued with lots of walking as my main form of exercise. I have lost about half a stone more but now weight loss feels less important and fitness feels more important. I don't always find it easy but I love the challenge and the confidence it gives me. I started indoors and now I love running outdoors and watching the trees come into leaf. When it rains I enjoy being warm and feeling the rain on my face. I've got 4 more runs until I graduate and then I'm going to re-appraise where I go from there. I think I will try more varied activities.... but I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't stop running.

  • I am running because I enjoy it. 6 years ago I passed the army fitness test and joined the TA whilst I was at uni. I would love to be able to get back to that level after living like a slob for 5 years since leaving. Also, I found this article in the mail yesterday. It is a welcome side effect..... dailymail.co.uk/health/arti...

  • Did it help?

  • -n/nLots of reasons. Initially, because I wanted to lose the baby weight from having 2 children in the space of 19.5 months, and it wasn't coming off from walking to groups like it did the first time. I also wanted to get fit and healthy though and get into doing regular exercise from a health point of view, because so many health problems are related to being overweight and a lack of exercise. My husband and I also want to set a good example for our kids, because none of our parents were particularly active when we were growing up, and we wonder if that had led to us being a bit lazy. We want to set a good example for our kids by exercising regularly, in the hope that they will want to join in when they are older and see exercise as a regular part of life. I was also diagnosed with post-natal depression shortly after starting the programme, and I have found that running does help my mood and gives me a break from the kids. I feel like I am doing something for myself, and it has improved my confidence and given me a sense of achievement, which has been good for my self-esteem, given I am not working at the moment. It makes me feel powerful and like I can accomplish anything if I set my mind to it! I did find it a bit boring running the same route over and over. I find planning new routes makes runs more interesting, and makes me feel more excited about going. It also gives me new challenges, like running up hills!

  • Wow, what a fantastic response from you all, I have just come back from a weekend away and just sat down to read all your thoughts, experiences, words of wisdom and inspiration.

    Funnily enough, this bank holiday Monday, I went out for a run around the countryside between Ely and Cambridge where I was staying. I had been due to run the previous Saturday but had really felt so lethargic I just literally wanted and needed to rest. Sunday was caught up with driving and a birthday meal out so by Monday I was really up for a run, despite having an uncomfortable nights sleep in a strange bed and therefore feeling really quite sleepy and achy. I decided (after confessing in my above post) to beng a slave to mapmyrun etc that I would set it to only prompt me when I had done 5k (its now my minumum and quite achievable for me now) and then see where it went from there. It proved to be a liberating experience. The route was an adventure into the unknown, the scenery interesting, the ground flat, sun shining. I ended up doing 5.6kms and was really into a lovely zone by the end of my run, I think I could have done more but was really happy with that.

    I love the fact running is something we can do wherever we are. I think posting my question really helped in reassessing my attitudes to running and now I am starting to relax into it and enjoy it more. Thank you to you all, through your posts, for helping me realise this too :)

    Oh and I did get a few compliments from family I haven't seen for a while, they noticed a change in me that went beyond just a change in shape, more a confidence in my own skin and a "radiance" that they hadn't seen in me for years. These observations have affirmed how running has made me feel, which is a more confident, more in control, more aware of my physicality and a more relaxed person. :)

  • Hi Misstrolly,

    I read your blog asking why we run a few days ago. I had to go away from it, to have a think... and I think that the reasons for running can change, without even realising it.

    When I first began to run, it was in an effort to get fitter but also maintain the weight loss that I'd managed during the months Jan-July 2011, while being able to eat a little more and not worry about it. I'd tried to run several years ago, but went about it all wrong, with no proper programme, and ended up giving up after a week or two with very painful knees.

    This time around I searched about on-line, and somewhere along the way, I found the NHS C25K programme. What a revelation! I COULD run! I completed the programme; but Misstrolly, I am like you; I need programmes and targets and no way can I just go out with no aim. There followed the B210K and the Bupa ten mile programme, where I managed to hurt my ankle on the first time of getting out for ten miles and had to take three weeks off. Oh, I was itching for the road. It drove me mad not being able to get out, but also, I was aware if I went back too early, I'd be off even longer.

    It can be hard to get out the door when I'm tired, but usually I find that once I'm out, ten minutes into the run, and I'm happy I'm out, and having some "me time".

    So, I like to have a focus to my running, aims, something to train for, I like results. I have my Garmin plugged in and am looking at the stats as soon as I'm dressed out of the shower. They might be worse than the last run, they might be better, but they are mine and I can see how hard I did (or didn't!) work.

    When I am out however I like to pound along to loud symphonic goth type metal (who knew, I'm nearly 52, a bit old for a goth!!)!! I like the rain on my face and the challenge of the hill. I like the feeling of freedom to try out new routes (and get lost!!); Now I have become a slightly more seasoned runner I can zone out and not have to think too much, or mull over a problem if I want to. I like the nod of acknowledgement from other runners as we pass each other in all weathers. I like the sight of my toned calves and the fact that my rear is about two inches higher and a lot firmer than it was this time last year. I like the fact that I am aerobically fitter than I have ever been in my entire life.

    So, I began running to keep weight off and get fit. I continue to run because it is all of the things above, and more.

    CaroleC

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