There is freedom in running through the world that surrounds you, making you feel as if nothing can hold you back. In a very real way it’s pure exploration. I’ve seen horse pastures covered in morning mist, cemeteries in twilight, foreign and American cities at their best and worst. I’ve seen the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean and go down over the Rocky Mountains with the sky in hews of orange and purple. People view distance running as daunting, painful, boring, or just impossible, rather than the easiest thing in the world to do once your body is accustomed to activity. It’s one step in front of the other, preferably in rapid succession.
In the United States, 57 million people ran or jogged in 2012, and many competed in over 26 thousand running events from the encouraging 5K to the mighty marathon. Every year people wake up, lace up, and hit the streets or trails. You can, too. The biggest obstacle that anyone, including myself, can face is taking that first step. I’ll be honest with you, taking that first step into a world away from the electronic realm is more difficult than it should be. The first time you run will be difficult and you will hurt. As you run more and more it will become near effortless. Muscle needs to be built and endurance needs to be achieved, but here are four reasons to take that first step into the unknown.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
—Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher
Reason #1: Running for Your Physical Health
Fortunately, as you run you pick up more than a few health bonuses along the way. The most quoted health benefit is the cardiovascular boost you receive from running. Running helps lower blood pressure and helps arteries maintain their elasticity. While running, the arteries expand and contract approximately three times as much as they do when you are sedentary. Also, running helps your joints by fighting osteoarthritis. Obesity is the most common cause for osteoarthritis and runners are more likely to have a healthy body weight. Furthermore, running increases bone density and also boosts ligament and cartilage strength. Best of all, according to the American College of Cardiology, “compared with non-runners… runners had a 30 percent lower risk of death from all causes and a 45 percent lower risk of death from heart disease or stroke. Runners on average lived three years longer compared to non-runners. Also, to reduce mortality risk at a population level from a public health perspective… promoting running is as important as preventing smoking, obesity or hypertension.”
Reason #2: Running for Your Psychological Health
I’ve heard it commonly said the “running is cheaper than therapy,” and having done both I can say that this is absolutely true. The solitude of running allows one to reflect on the trials and tribulations that occur throughout daily life. The physical act of running allows the body to work out feelings of aggression, frustration, and anger. There is a certain amount of zen that goes along with running. Furthermore, there’s something called a “runner’s high”, a feeling of euphoria praised by many a runner. This is thought to occur when increased blood flow combines with a large increase in production and subsequent release of endorphins and serotonin attach themselves to the emotion centers of the brain. This all acts as a natural antidepressant. Plus, it’s addictive as hell, but in a good way.
Reason #3: Running is Cheap…
…or as cheap as you want it to be. Fitness clubs and gyms charge between $41 and $49 a month, grossing more than $26.5 billion in 2013. The first thing that you need to get started is simply a pair of good shoes. A good pair of shoes will cost you $100, so for the cost of a couple of months of membership dues at a gym you get a year’s worth of adventure. I can’t emphasize this enough, run in a good pair of running shoes. The quickest path to injury is to wear old shoes, non-running shoes, or ill-fitting shoes. They will tear up your shins and hurt your knees. Other than shoes, nothing else is really needed. Lightweight fabric, special chafe resistant undergarments, performance socks, water carrying systems, and GPS devices are all nice to have but aren’t ultimately necessary. Shoes and the open road are all that you need (and even then not always).
Reason #4: Running is Fun
Run. Run from your front door, through your local park, around a lake, or through city streets. The scenery is always changing, so discover what’s beyond your tablet and phone! Distance doesn’t even matter. Take off from your house and run a mile or two or thirty. Run a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or train for a full. Run by yourself, the lone explorer looking forward to the treasures that the next turn will reveal. Escape into your mind, reflecting, problem solving, or daydreaming as the world passes by. Run in a group, charging up that hill like cavalry on horseback. Running clubs are great places to meet people that are motivating, supportive, and kind-hearted. This is to say nothing of the people you run next to in an event such as a half or full marathon.
I have touched heaven running through this world, I have run through hell, and I have never once not had fun doing so. Running through this world has shown me what it is to take pride in myself and everything I can accomplish. You will feel pain, but not weakness, and your body will adapt and crave the open trail or road. While running though this world, I’ve made lifelong friends and run feet below military aircraft as they landed. I’ve run the streets of Los Angeles, Seoul, Atlanta, and dozens of smaller cities. I’ve run the highest road in North America and beaches on both coasts. Running is an adventure, find yours.