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Why Runners Run

The real question runners may want to ask themselves, is WHY do people run?  WHY do you run? What inspires you to run?  I have been treating runners for years and have helped them navigate their running-related injuries.  Every one of those patients wanted to get back to running, but what is their WHY?
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The real question runners may want to ask themselves, is WHY do people run? WHY do you run? What inspires you to run? I have been treating runners for years and have helped them navigate their running-related injuries. Every one of those patients wanted to get back to running, but what is their WHY? Of course, the obvious is to exercise and be in shape. Don’t get me wrong, that is absolutely a fantastic (maybe the main reason) people run! But are there other driving factors behind the run. Is there more than just trying to get faster, PR on your race, make negative splits and qualify for Boston?

Initially, running for me was just about exercise.  Burn calories to make up for the calories gained in college from food and drinks, yes, the alcoholic kinds. Growing up playing soccer, we had to run to build up our cardiovascular endurance, but I hated running then. It seemed like punishment at the time. I wanted a ball, teammates, slide tackling, knocking people around and winning games. What I found going for runs in college was that I really loved it! Not only was I getting exercise and getting in better physical shape, but I also felt mentally clearer and had more energy during the day. Thus, I wanted to continue to run. I found I could lose myself for the few miles I was out there doing it.  This is a big reason why I continue to run today, but recently, my inspiration for running, my WHY, has changed.

My 6-year-old son, Joshua James, passed away last April from SUDEP (Suden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). He has been living with epilepsy and autism since he was a 1-year-old.  However, he was the happiest, smiley, bravest, loving kid you would ever meet. He brightened the lives of everyone around him. He was our world! The past couple of years he had been doing fairly well with seizure control and was in the midst of kindergarten, absolutely loving school. However, almost a year ago today, the unimaginable happened. To say this is the worst thing that can happen to anyone’s lives, to lose a child, would be an understatement. It still doesn’t seem real as I am writing it down now.  It is hard to express in words what I feel but imagine a heavy weighted blanket pushing you down every day with a constant pain in your heart. The struggle to hold back tears in public and just make it through a day is a constant battle. But my wife, Kate, and I try to keep going. We were not given a choice as this is our new life now.

Why I Run

So, I run to keep Joshua’s memory alive and want to raise awareness for his condition, but more importantly, it helps keep my daily grief in check.  This was one of the driving forces of starting this blog, in addition to assisting runners in management of injuries, was to hear stories about WHY and explore INSPIRATIONS for runners and keep us motivated to go!

There are numerous reasons and WHY’s to run.  People likely have numerous reasons WHY they run and, of course, a comprehensive list could go on forever.  I wanted to go through some of the “WHY’s” we run.

Reasons We Run:

  • Great exercise and way to stay healthy (duh?!): The health benefits of running are numerous. You can burn roughly 100 calories per mile, thus a great way for weight loss with a balanced diet. We tend to burn more calories running than with other cardiovascular activities. Regular running can help lower blood pressure by increasing the amount of oxygen in the body, thus lowering the stiffness of blood vessels. It can promote the increase of our healthy HDL cholesterol and help with the elimination of bad LDL cholesterol.  Thus, we may not need to take unnecessary medications for these, which could be controlled by regular running.  Running with strengthening exercises and loading of your bones can increase osteoblastic activity (born formation) and help reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Running can also boost your body’s immune response by improving the body’s antibody production against disease, lower overall body inflammation, and enhance gut microbiota composition.
  • Reduce stress and make you happy:  Running helps mitigate stress by stimulating the production of the brains feel-good neurotransmitter endorphins, which is released to the body to help you feel happy, battle excessive cortisol level (stress hormone) and can act as a natural painkiller.
  • Improve Sleep: Running boots production of the serotonin hormone which helps regulate your wake-sleep cycle.
  • Meet People: Running is a great way to connect to a community and make friends. Check local running clubs in the area that host group runs and events.  You can connect to folks with similar interests. Good way to stay motivated and share achievements and successes.
  • Cause and/or Charity: Great way to give back to the good of society. Many foundations have races or fun runs with proceeds going to their cause. You can also sign up for a race and set up a go fund me page and use it to raise money for donations to your favorite charity.  Many charities set up teams and/or training plans in contribution to their cause (i.e., Team in Training is the flagship fundraising program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.)
  • Achieving Personal Goals: Every New Year, we set resolutions or personal goals. What a great way to do this by signing up for a specific race and taking the appropriate training to finish that race!
  • Improved Energy: I found this when I started to run more consistently, I had more energy and better concentration during the day. It can also wake you up on days you may feel more tired with an increase in your body’s hormones.
  • Mental Health: Let’s face it, we have a lot going on in our lives. Work, stress, family, outside world. Running is about us, our own thoughts, our own time. This is where we can lose ourselves for the how many miles we are on the road and zone out.
  • Feel Good about Yourself: It’s not bad to say this or think this, but running improves your confidence and self-esteem that can spill over to both professional and personal lives. It has been studied that regular running improves perceptions of fitness and body image linked to improved self-esteem.  Think about how good you feel completing a race that you put in the time and effort to train for.
  • Inexpensive Activity: All you need to do is lace up those shoes or not (all you barefoot runners out there) and head out the door. Unlike skiing (which I also love to do), where you have to buy those super comfortable boots (haha), skis, snow gear, expensive lift tickets.  Running requires minimal equipment, and you can do it pretty much everywhere, even in the middle of Death Valley in July (The Badwater Ultramarathon).
  • Explore Nature and/or Explore a New Area: What a great way to get in touch with nature and our beautiful world then going for a run. There are so many great trails and paths to be explored. Last year, on my visit to Venice, Italy, I signed up for a guided run tour through www.gorunningtours.com. This was a great way to explore a new city and get in a run with a 1:1 guide who took me around, giving me history and pointing out landmarks. You can also cover more ground running than walking, so you can explore more!
  • Being Part of a Community:  All runners share a bond through their trials and tribulations in simply being a runner.  There is a deep bond between runners that it seems only runners understand.  Whether you run a mile or ultramarathons, whether you’re fast or slow, whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, you are part of this great community.  Every one of you should share your successes, failures, motivations and inspirations with each other.  All runners are part of a community that is theirs, and every one of you brings something to the table. You all have stories of WHY you run, stories of training sessions, and stories of races that should be shared!  This community and deep understanding of what it is like to be a runner will continue to encourage, motivate and inspire each other along the way!

Please reach out to me or follow me on Instagram @PT4Inspiredrunner and share your why!

If you have any questions or want to schedule an evaluation for your run related injury, feel free to reach out to me and schedule at our Vida Ravenna Clinic (206-315-7998). Follow me on Instagram @pt4inspiredrunner and/or visit my website at www.pt4inspiredrunner.com

Jason Godfrey, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS

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