It’s easy to overlook the subtle ways that running can transform your life. These 10 hidden benefits to running are much more important to me than ‘feeling the burn’, ‘torching the kcals’ or other such ‘gym-speak’.
- You stop caring what insignificant people think about you – Running has gave me the strength to dismiss those who think ill of me, especially in the street. I get called all sorts of names and I just don’t care anymore. When I’m outside running, I’m thinking about getting ready for a race. Other people don’t matter, especially if they are being nasty without reason. I get overly frivolous about the abuse at times and blow kisses in their direction. I know this is asking for trouble. One day I’ll do it without looking and end up being bum-raped by a Lithuanian drag-king in heels.
- You learn that self doubt is only a temporary mental barrier – I’ve doubted my ability to finish all 11 of the races I’ve entered so far, but I managed to get through each of them just by trying to take my mind off the discomfort. When self-doubt hits, it’s paralysing. Once you realise it’s only a mental construct, then you know that you can defeat it. The first time it hits you though, it’s the loneliest feeling in the world. Finishing seems an impossibility.
- You learn to open up to others when you’re struggling – The beauty of long distance races is that when that feeling of self-doubt and loneliness peaks in a race, you can always pick someone to run along with and chat to. You’ll then spend 5 fucking miles complaining to each other about how entering this race was the most stupid fucking idea ever but whilst you’re doing this the miles will just slip by. It’s the perfect way to make friends and bond whilst taking your mind off the pain.
- You gain a sense of perspective about the fragility of life – The only thing I hate about races is seeing others lying down in distress by the road towards the end. In the
a guy the same age as myself called Aubrey Smith died at the 12 mile mark around the same time I was passing through. I didn’t see him, but just the thought that someone that young could die really hit me hard. If any minute could be your last then you’ve got to live life to the extreme and milk it for what it’s worth.
- You learn that hard work pays off in the long run – When you’ve trained for a race for months you start to doubt your fucking sanity. Eventually you’ll hit the plateau in your regime where you think ‘What’s the fucking point in this? If I wanted to have bleeding nipples every morning at 6am I’d join an all-night BDSM spa’. However, once you cross that finish line all of the early starts and broken toenails suddenly seem worthwhile. It’s hard to explain how it feels when you’re 200 yards from the finish line and everyone else around you is roaring. Well it’s not that difficult. It feels pretty fucking amazing.
- You start believing in yourself – And I don’t mean that in the ‘Oh I can fucking achieve anything!’ bullshit way. If you can train and complete a race, that you once thought was impossible, then you start reconsidering who you are as a person. You stop believing that you’re weak. When you think you’re weak, you are always on the defensive. Running has given me the confidence to take my life by the balls and to live it how I want to live it.
- You learn to deal with misfortune – I’ve fell head over tits on ice, suffered more cases of bleeding nipples than I care to think about, convinced a Scottish man that I had pissed myself in an elevator and had the displeasure of running from Fremont Street on Las Vegas back to my hotel at the South end of the strip after losing my cab fare home. But I still get out there and run for fun. When I was a very fat man, the smallest things in life would really fucking piss me off for no reason. Nowadays I don’t let misfortune phase me.
- Running isn’t just about the sport either - It’s really handy being able to pull an 8-minute-mile out of your ass if you’re late for work or are being pursued by a toothless Irish man with nothing but Guinness and non-consensual-love on his mind. On a more serious note, you can commute to work by running or head to the store and back much faster, just by putting on your trainers. You feel more primed for everyday life as a runner. Especially if you wake up in the morning, open your front door and see this.
- You become driven in all parts of your life by what you perceive to be past failures – I was always really fucking shit at Sports in school. I was the fat boy who forged letters from his parents to get out of fitness class. My idea of competition was seeing if I could eat my way through a big bag of chips in 40 minutes. It’s fucking madness that I’m now deliberately running 13.1 miles for fun. But it feels good looking back now that I’ve transformed from a lazy fat boy to a lazy (less) fat man.
- But at the same time you’re fuelled by what lies ahead in the future – Before I became a runner I dreaded the future. I thought I would always just plod along and get by. Now I find myself thrilled by what lies ahead. I am going to travel to America and Europe to enter races. I will run the Las Vegas Marathon before I hit 30. I plan to do at least 3 European half marathons next year. The thought of seeing all these new places and meeting fellow runners blows my mind. And it’s only the fucking start of all of this wondrous madness.
The future looks infinitely brighter when you’re a runner and know that you’ll always be a runner.
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