Why I Love Running

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Sometimes I am asked what it is about running that I love so much. I always pause, taken aback by the question, as if I am being asked why I love my husband, my family, my friends, or my cat.

I just do.

But after probing more into my instinctual and immediate response, I start to realize that there are many reasons why I love to run. The answer I give you will depend on the day, the distance, the time, my mood, my body, my sleep, and various other factors.

Today the reason I ran was for mental health.

I knew that today’s run would serve the purpose of boosting my mental health and centering me. Today I just craved a run like nothing else.

Recently, Caitlin had a wonderful discussion on the topic of ‘What are you running towards?’. In my answer to her question, I said:

I’m running towards inner peace. I’d like to think I get there a bit more with each run.

Inner peace is one of the goals I strive for each and every day. It is not always through running that I try to get there; sometimes it is through writing, baking, reading, meditating, cracking jokes, walking, or being with my loved ones. The desire for inner peace was one of the main reasons why I ended up leaving an unfulfilling career and branching out on my own.

I think inner peace is a lovely goal. And running helps me get there.

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I have also been asked by frustrated readers how they can learn to enjoy running. Sometimes the answer I give seems a bit odd:

“Have you cried on a run yet?”

What? No!”

Then keep running.”

Have you gotten a shiver through your entire body on a run yet?”

From the cold, you mean?”

Keep running.”

I remember the day that hooked me on running. It was during my first 10k race in June 2009. I had been running on and off since August 2008, but I never understood why anyone could enjoy 30 minutes of breathless agony. What kind of strange people were they, I would wonder.

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This 10k course was a brutal one, filled with menacing hills around every bend or turn. I laugh about it now, but at the time I was running on steam.

Here is a quote from my race recap #3 (the rest can be found on my race page):

6km-7km: It was hot, but I was truly loving every minute of the race. Each time someone passed me, it motivated me to dig deep within myself and find an extra ounce or two of strength. I thought a lot about Chris during these 2 kilometers and I found myself getting quite emotional in the moment. I teared up at one point as I was so overcome with emotion. I think it had been building for so long now. All of the emotions from my injury were finally being let go. The 2 months when I couldn’t even do yoga let alone cardio exercise affected me more than I realized. I felt free, and yes, while I was panting, and grunting, and feeling sometimes like I was going to die going up a hill, in some odd way I felt so alive. I thought about what Chris must have gone through with his cancer and coming to grips with the fact that he wasn’t going to make it to his thirties. Suddenly everything I was feeling sort of went numb. A tear dropped off my face and I didn’t feel any tiredness anymore. I didn’t curse the hills, I didn’t worry about my time, heart rate, or pace…and I am not sure if the music was on or off.

I just ran.

And this is why I love to run.

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The ability to take your emotional junk and leave it on the pavement is something I have not found in anything else but through running. For some it is yoga or walking or skydiving, but for me it is running.

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Today’s long run wasn’t really about improving my physical endurance or training for a half marathon. I mean, of course it was to an extent, but really, all I wanted to do was clear my mind and reclaim my inner peace.

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It worked.

[But perhaps, not without Kath’s Sweet, sweet nectar recipe too. Two thumbs up for homemade sports drinks!]

How do you find your inner peace?

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

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DebZ August 24, 2010

i LOVED reading this. thank you.

quick question – i’m soon to return to running after almost two years off and i’m trying to get my head and life organized. when returning to running (or starting from scratch), do you think it’s more helpful (mentally and physically) to focus on distance (setting weekly/monthly/whatever goals for how much distance covered with each run) or time (how much time spent out there with each run)?

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Irene August 24, 2010

Since I was a child, I have always been unhappy. As a child, I always felt lonely, worried, panicky, & guilty. I thought when I grew up, all these emotions would go away & I would become “normal” & happy like other people. When this didn’t happen as I reached 18, I thought it would happen after I entered University. When this didn’t happen, I thought it would happen after I graduated and got a job. And it didn’t happen again. There were moments I felt happy but they were temporary, and even during those periods, I still felt anxious & panicky. The only true exception was when I was with Daifook. I felt soooo loved. I felt secure and that I could handle any challenges when I was with him. I still remember that after many years of absence, I started praying again thanking God for blessing me with Daifook. That happened on a Sunday. Daifook passed away on the following Wednesday during his prime. I looked around & eventually came to the realization that those who are not happy as a child will not be happy as an adult either. And at 41, I didn’t think it is possible for me to change and become happy anymore.

Parallel to my failure to search for happiness is my failure to make any breakthrough in running. Running is the only sport/task I have tried from time to time throughout my life. And I could never break the 1-mile mark – not even during my prime.

This April, I just suddenly decided that I would try to run a 5k race one day – i.e. to do something I could never manage. And somehow, various people just showed up for a flash at the right time to help me push thru’ each barrier. So, suddenly, I was running 5K, then 10K, then 10 miles, and a half-marathon. Every distance had been impossible for me. But somehow, each of these impossible distances has happened to me personally even though my life is “supposed” to go downhill at my age. And isn’t life a marathon? Perhaps, I will also find happiness and peace that far exceed my expectation one day – just like how it has happened in running.

That’s why I started to run all these distances. Then, along the courses, I have encountered much beauty; they are bonuses I had not expected. Some of the beauty is captured on my blog so that I can remember. These bonuses give me even more reasons

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suz August 23, 2010

I love running because it gives me several things: 1) it gives me alone time, 2) it gives me the chance to look at my surroundings, 3) it lets me see where my legs can take me and 4) I always feel healthier after I run! :) Thank you for this post – it reminded me of why I love running since I got really, really burnt out after my June marathon. That was not a kind distance for me, and subsequently I found that my happy distance is 7-15 miles (depending on the day)!

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Jane August 22, 2010

I have got back into swimming , I used to swim at a national level and too a 20 year break ! I swim long distances and find that after a few lengths I have settled into a swim rhythm and then I can let my mind get into a rhythm to – I leave the pool grounded and centred and its a great stress reliever !

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Gina August 22, 2010

I must admit this post was difficult for me to read. I never liked running until this year. And then almost over night it became my stress reliever and something I looked forward to everyday. I started training for my first half marathon and about a month into my training I suffered a stress fracture in my right hip. That was back in April and I haven’t been able to run since. I am still recovering from that and am uncertain if I will be able to run again. I never thought I would miss running so much!

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Sher August 22, 2010

Hey Angela

I have been reading your blog for a while and LOVE it! I am a phd student and i think your best post was where your wite about your career change! Will comment on that soon! I read your race reports and just signed up for a 5k next Sunday ( thanks to you)! So excited!!!

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jen August 21, 2010

Firstly, love your blog. i’ve been a loyal reader for about a year now, it’s the first one i check in my list of blogs i check in the morning. I loved this post as I often get asked why I run. You’re very inspiring and you have a great creative mind when it comes to your recipes. Lovely photos too :)

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Amber K August 21, 2010

What a great blog! I always wish I could become a “runner” too. Someone who can truly be moved from a run. It hasn’t happened yet, but maybe one day!

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Jess - The Domestic Vegan August 21, 2010

What a FABULOUS post, Angela!! I love it! My brain is shutting down at this time of night (I know, I’m so wild on a Saturday… ;)), so I don’t have any great feedback to give, but I had to tell you how wonderful this post is.

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Dee August 21, 2010

Amazing post Angela! I’ve been getting more & more intrigued by running. Your post re-affirms why I have been leaning more towards it. I struggle everyday with that inner peace. To improve my mental health, why, that would be all the reason I need to begin.

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Kris August 21, 2010

You have a beautiful gift to inspire and touch people through your writing. Everything about this post is beautiful!!! This is exactly what you should be doing….writing and sharing with all of us! Thanks for putting your heart and soul into your blog every single day :)

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Samantha Cernock August 21, 2010

I too, get asked about running. I came about running late in life, when I was 24. I never thought of myself as a runner and always told people I couldn’t do it. I was an avid exercise person, I just did everything else. Then one day I went out on a run with my husband and two of my girlfriends and ran 4 miles without thinking anything of it. The key – pacing myself which my husband taught me. Now, I run for that inner peace. Nothing clears my mind like a good run.

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Michelle August 21, 2010

Great post!! I definitely find my inner peace on some killer runs! And there are some times when I come home, and my husband just sees the look on my face and says “you going for a run?” without me even saying anything. Its so good for my soul :)

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jodi August 21, 2010

I love this post! moving meditation, for the 2 hours a day that i’m out running my mind is free, im not thinking about what has to be done later on in the day or things that have happened earlier, you just run, pure serenity! ,

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Claire @ Low Impact Fashionista August 21, 2010

I often tell my boyfriend he’s lucky that I love long distance running! It is the best way to get alllll your emotional junk out and be able to think clearly about anything and everything. If you think crying is stress relieving try crying on a run ;)

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