Saturday, August 3, 2013

How Running Makes Me a Better Person

I’ve been running for almost 18 years, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I wasn’t a runner. 

There are a few things that might be better. My wallet, for example, freed from the annual burden of buying three pairs of sneakers, several race entries and, most recently, tubs of Generation UCAN, would be considerably lighter. I’d also launder my clothes far less frequently and be able to get away with using bath towels more than once. I’d actually get to sleep in on Sunday mornings, too. 

But, let’s face it, running makes me a better person. There are many reasons why, but these are the ones that come to mind first. 

I’m hearty. Regular exercise gives you more energy, strengthens your immune systems and makes you less prone to the colds and flus that knock most everyone else down. I get a cold once or twice a year, but that’s it. And they never last more than a couple days. (Everyone hates me.) 

I’m confident. Twenty mile marathon training runs suck, and in the hours that follow, I often find myself questioning the majority of my life decisions. But the next day -- or, let’s be honest, two days later, since I’m not getting any younger -- I’m proud of what I’ve done. This pride seeps into other facets of life, too, and it makes me realize that I’m perfectly capable of taking on tough tasks at work, at home and in life. It may hurt, but I’ll power through. 

I eat as much as a small nation in the South Pacific. Yes, this lightens the wallet, and yes, I stick to a pretty healthy diet as it is, but it’s nice to know that I can enjoy free pizza or cake at work and not feel guilty about it. (Did I mention that everyone hates me?) 

I can handle adversity. I can probably count on one hand the number of perfect races I’ve had in my life. In all the rest, one, two or 1,002 things have gone wrong. But I’ve finished every race, no matter how much it hurt or how embarrassing my finishing time would be. So, when I get stuck at work late, or traffic sucks, or I spill my coffee before even taking a single sip, or the stupid raspberries in my stupid backyard scratch my stupid arms, I can shrug it off without getting stressed, panicked or otherwise freaked out. 

I never pay for T-shirts. Road race shirts are great conversation starters, too. 

I know my body well. Run long enough and you start to tell the difference between a tight muscle (which you can relieve by walking it off or stretching), a sore muscle (which you can relieve by resting) and an injured muscle (which you need help fixing). You can also tell the difference between being fatigued, exhausted and worn down to the point that you need a day off. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid injury in my running career, and a big part of the reason is knowing the difference between good pain (which builds a foundation for better, faster, stronger running) and serious pain. 

 

I have great friends. Runners are genuinely awesome people -- often humble, occasionally snarky, incredibly supportive and always welcoming. When I’m down, they cheer me up. When I have a bad workout, they encourage and motivate me. I gladly do the same for them, too. (I only hope I return the favor as well as they stick up for me.) 

I definitely have bad runs, bad workouts and bad races, but these seven reasons -- along with others I can’t quite articulate -- clearly illustrate why running makes me a better person and why I will never, ever regret taking up this sport. 

Running makes all of us better people. How has it changed your life?