Ask a runner;
No, wait, bear with me on this:
Ask a runner what they love about running.
What makes them head out every day, no matter the weather, no matter the amount of time… No matter, no matter, no matter…
Why continue this running thing?
If fitness is that important to you, why do you drink beers after the runs? Why eat doughnuts and burgers and your weight in pasta and pizzas if you’re just running for fitness?
It may have been when they started, sure.
Loose some pounds, get off the heart meds, avoid diabetes. Fitness is more a catalyst than a reason. If a runner is telling you their reason is “fitness”, they haven’t been running long. A few of the farther gone will still say fitness, but they have a list of other reasons added. The honest ones will tell you what I’m saying here. Fitness started it. But the reason it keeps happening? The reason they keep putting the shoes on, pushing the miles, and signing up for the races? Well…
The answers will vary. You’ll really hear the spectrum: The community (running clubs to race crowds), the competition, the calming nature (stress relief), the adventure (experiences, sights and sounds, getting lost, getting somewhere new), the way you get to see a place (from your feet rather than driving by), achievement (goals and beating expectations)…
The bottom line is happiness.
Running is hard. There are bad days and injuries. But even through injuries and difficulties inherent in this physical activity, people will tell you that they are made happy by it. They feel better. They see the changes. They see the connections.
My happiness comes out of the connections made while running.
Sure, I love the adventures. I love running through new areas and around vacation spots. I enjoy going to races and competing in 5ks and whatnot. I like being outside. I like the health benefits.
For me, its all about the friendships. That’s where my happiness is in running.
My running group makes it fun to be out there for hours, running miles in the worst (and sometimes best) weather conditions. My running group has had my back through all the good times and bad…both in my life and in my running. Difficult races. Difficult career changes. Losses. Wins.
There’s a saying that you should note those who celebrate your accomplishments with you, and also take note of those who celebrate your failures. The former are your true friends, the latter need to be pushed out of your life. My running group has encouraged me through my worst times in running, telling me that it was good training for the next run, or that injury will pass. They give good advice on how to improve and heal. And when I win? They celebrate! They are genuinely happy for me. They don’t tell me that I did “okay, but really, could have done better still”. They don’t belittle the accomplishments. They don’t compare someone far better or more talented than me to what I did. My accomplishment stands alone. Just like everyone else in the group. You are compared to yourself.
I love having the running group.
I probably wouldn’t have stuck with running as long as I have, if it weren’t for my running group. (Kudos to Superman for bringing me into the group in the first place). I certainly wouldn’t enjoy running like I do without them. And I know I wouldn’t have improved as much as I have since I started running with them (See: Never Say “Too Fast For Me”)
I love turning the group of people around me in a marathon into an impromptu running group as well. There’s a lot shared among people who are going through an experience like a marathon together. No matter how experienced or how new. And it’s amazingly fun to be running a marathon and hear someone shout to you, saying that they remember you and talking about how you helped them through a tough spot in a race in some other state. Super cool.
Maybe you really enjoy running alone. Running groups and clubs and talking to others during races isn’t for everyone. But you should give a running group a shot once and a while. It doesn’t hurt to be part of the larger group sometimes. Sometimes its nice to have people who know you holler at you during races. The encouragement and stories are so worthwhile.
However you justify the why, remember to run happy!