Many people ask me "Why do you run?" I've been running for over 40 years and I hope I don't have to stop running during my life. There are many reasons I run and my reasons have changed over the years. When I was young I ran to stay in shape for backpacking and hiking. My father and I would run from 3-6 miles a couple of days per week so that we could backpack 10-20 mile days on weekends throughout the year. My running and backpack "training" allowed me to complete the 223 mile John Muir Trail alone when I was 14.
As I started college and later medical school running was a way for me to relax and focus on my studies. I was able to get more done after a 30-40 minute run. Running became my daily transition from classes to hours of study. It allowed me to focus better and get more studying done so I could keep up on my sleep.
Although I ran in several races as a kid, it wasn't until my residency in Neurology at the University of Michigan that competitive goals became a significant focus. My first goal was to run a hilly 10 mile loop from my house in under an hour. With that achieved running a half marathon and then a full marathon at under 6:00 pace became my focus. Because of my backpacking background long trail races held more appeal to me than shorter road races. In 1995 the 55 mile Mountain Masochist in Virginia was my first ultra. The following summer I completed my first of ten Western States 100 mile races. Since 1995 I have competed in ~120 ultramarathons and 24 marathons.
While I still compete today, I train primarily for the love of running. It's fun to try new training methods, see new places while running and push myself to improve (or at my age at least maintain) my fitness. Health goals and being in shape for all of life's adventures are the major reasons I run today.
So here's my summary of important reasons to run:
- Running is the simplest way to keep your body in shape. You can do it anywhere with minimal equipment. Minute for minute it provides the more benefit than any other sport.
- Keeping in shape improves your sleep, mood and reduces your risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis. Recent medical evidence points to running resulting in improved brain function (ie you'll be smarter!) from childhood through late adulthood.
- For competition! There are many competitive programs to participate in including Junior Olympics, road races, High School and College track and cross country. Racing half marathons, marathons and--for the mentally unstable--ultras provide variety and keep running fresh. It's fun to have goals to focus on as you train and be part of a strong and healthy community.
- The friendships you develop in the running community are among the strongest you'll form in your life.
- For all of life's adventures! The fitness you gain from running allows you to participate in so many other outdoor activities that non-runners find difficult or impossible. Backpacking, long hikes, climbing mountains, skiing and biking will all be easier and more fun. There's so much more you can do and so many more places you can explore with the stronger bodies you get from running.
So lace up a pair of shoes and go out for a run--and prepare to achieve all of running's important benefits!
Coach Kevin Sawchuk