Why do I run?

I get this question a lot when people hear that I run. Why do I run? Most people also say that they wished they could run or they only run away from things! Haha!

I’ve always liked running, but I haven’t always trained. This changed in 2020 when I decided to quit drinking and focus on losing weight and living healthier. I started slowly, walking a lot on the treadmill. I built that into small 5-6km runs, that turned into 8-10km runs, and then 15-20km runs.

At some point, I realized that I was training hard enough to run a marathon and reach a lifelong dream. I committed to running my first marathon. I started training for a marathon in July 2021 and I guess that’s when running became more serious. Training for a marathon is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done physically and mentally. And completing that marathon was a great achievement that put me in tears!

In another blog post, I outline some of my most recent training and history of running:

https://denniskreba.com/2022/05/31/running-the-next-step/

Should you run?

I always tell someone that they should be able to run or at least walk at a very brisk pace in case of emergencies. I hope you never need to face it, but if you were in a life threatening situation, could you walk or run for help? How far could you go in 30 mins? 60 mins? How long does 5km or 10km take you to traverse?

No one starts running long distances at first. You build it up. Lots of new runners walk and run for intervals during a session. A common philosophy is 10 minutes running then 1 minute walking. In fact, I ran my first marathon using the 10:1 split.

I still walk a ton for my training. I walk about 10 km a day (morning walk and lunch time walk). For my half marathon training, I mostly walked during the week and added long run Sunday training (16-25km runs) to meet my goals.

But you could start with whatever is comfortable for you. Scientifically, walking is very good for our overall health!

Why do I run?

I love running far more than almost any other fitness activity. I’ll put walking at a very brisk pace into the same category and golf. But, I just love moving my legs. Walking. Jogging. Running. Challenging my physical limits. Increasing my lung capacity. Working thru my recovery programs. As far as weight loss goes, I’ll put up my running routine against lots of other activities. I’ve lost 30 pounds walking/running. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.

Some people have heard of the runner’s high. Is it a thing? I have no idea. But I can tell you that I feel awesome after a quality run. I mean, yes, I feel exhausted, but there is such a euphoria that comes with the effort of a long run. I just feel great after a run!

Meditative / Mindfulness

I find running is an extension of my meditative and mindfulness practices.

Meditation has taught me many things about controlling my thoughts and being able to handle alone time. In my opinion, this is key to my enjoyment of running. It’s a physical version of meditation for me. Picture this: it’s a beautiful day, 20C, sunny, a brisk wind, and it’s just me, myself and I with my thoughts on the road for 2-3 hours. Either you like that alone time or you don’t. I love it!

How does mindfulness fit in? For me, I try to focus on the task at hand, which is running. I try to focus on my breathing and my stride. I focus on the sun hitting me and warming me. I’m really trying to enjoy the run. Once in a while, I’ll let my thoughts wander, or allow myself to sing to the next song coming up on my playlist. But mostly, I’m staying in the moment.

I try to focus on the road and the traffic. I focus on every intersection making sure that I’m not run over. I focus on the walkways and the dangers: people with dogs, people on bikes/scooters. I’m HYPER ALERT when I run. At any intersections with yields or hidden alleys or where sidewalks intersect a road, it’s dangerous. It can be really dangerous running on the streets with a higher pace. 99% of drivers are not looking for pedestrians at the best of times. They are certainly not looking for a runner. This level of being hyper alert can be exhausting, but it also puts your mind and body into a different place.

Imagine: it’s late in the evening, you are just sitting down for bed, and you hear a “thunk”! What was that? I’m sure I heard something! Actually, this happened to me last weekend with my wife away on a weekend trip. All of a sudden, you are on hyper alert! I’m walking around the house trying to make sure everything is secure. In this case, it was super windy, and my motion light in my backyard was triggering. I was so freaked out. Afterwards, when I was safe…phew! What a rush! That’s being hyper alert and I can get that feeling running.

For some, running would be 3 hours of intolerable alone time. For me, it’s 3 hours of meditation that refreshes me. So running is a physical and mental work out.

Events / Medals

Signing up for an event, training for the event, and then participating is a rush! I’ll never forget my first marathon and the tears that flowed when I finished. It was a great achievement; an amazing accomplishment. I did it and I have the medal to prove it.

Recently in Calgary, I set a goal to break a personal best in the half marathon (21.1km). I wanted to run it in less than 2 hours. I trained for it but on race day, I still wasn’t sure if I could do it. A lot can happen during your event. You can get injured during your training. You can get injured on race day or experience cramping. You can have low energy or lack sleep on race day. Even the best training plan does not equal the race day. But I did it! And not only did I break 2 hours in the half marathon, I ran a 5km 3 hours later in under 30 mins. I finished 6th in my age group. More medals! Yahoo!

There is something special about being part of a big race/event. Things can still be scary with “COVID” hanging around. Luckily, running events are outside and feel pretty safe! You can also sign up and run with friends at events. They are super fun!

It is so fulfilling to train for a race and finish it. It doesn’t matter what your goal is. Walk. Run. Slow. Fast. Setting a goal and reaching it is good for you! And you can grab onto those accomplishments for the rest of your life. And you can share those moments with your running friends.

For the rest of my life, I’ll be able to look at my marathon medal, smile, and know that I did it! For the rest of my life, I’ll be able to look back at the adversity I faced in that 5km with tired muscles and know that I pushed thru it and succeeded.

Other Considerations

Injuries

I’ve been very fortunate that I haven’t had to work thru any bad injuries since I started running. However, running injuries can be brutal and usually the remedy is rest and when you are a runner, that’s the worst thing you can hear.

Knees. Calves. Achilles. Arches. IT Bands. Hamstrings. Quads. Back.

For the most part, I enjoy recovery and I think that’s why I stay healthy. I use a Theragun almost every day! I have air compression leggings that I use multiple times a week to help improve blood flow and recovery. I have an intense stretching program. And I go to physio and for massages monthly. I take care of myself.

Runners run thru more injuries it seems than a lot of other casual sports. I feel like I have a good inner awareness of my body. I know when to push thru an injury and I know when to take it slower or take a rest day or week.

Group vs solo

I like running solo for the most part. I do all of my training solo. As I mentioned above, I like the alone time. However, there are a lot of social runners out there who organize runs and love running together. I love the ability to just put on my runners and go!

That being said, I ran with a friend during my marathon and loved it. I also ran most of my recent 5km with a friend until she “ran” out of energy late in the race. And I really enjoyed that experience as well. I also ran my half marathon with a pace group and I saw a lot of the same people around me the whole race. I even congratulated a couple of them, even though they might not have noticed me.

The running community is awesome and very welcoming!

Dangers: cars, bikes, dogs

You would think that running is a safe sport. But running in communities and neighbourhoods is dangerous. I mentioned it above about being hyper alert on runs. It’s really important to stay safe on your runs. I use over the ear headphones or bone conduction headphones that allow me to listen to music and hear traffic. I’m constantly checking for traffic. Hidden alleys and even business parking lots are super dangerous to run past.

On shared trails, you have to be aware of everyone else on the trail. Honestly, people with dogs can be the most dangerous. There are a lot of people with dogs that do not have control of their dogs. As a runner, you can spook or scare the dog from behind, and dogs can jump out at you as you pass.

Dogs on zip line leashes are the worst! Runner beware! If you walk your dog with one of these, please replace it with a leash that has proper control.

I got stuck one day with a zip line leash dog walker with 2 dogs on my right. As I tried to move safely to the left and yelled out a warning (on your left!), a bicycle with a dog on another zip line leash came up behind me on my left. All 3 dogs rushed each other, right in front of me. I nearly tripped. The dog owners thought it was “cute” but I could have been seriously injured.

Treadmill vs outdoors

I enjoy running outdoors. But I’m not a die hard outdoor runner. In bad weather, I’ll just jump on the treadmill. My morning walk is always on the treadmill. I used the treadmill all winter for walking and running. I believe my longest run on the treadmill is 30km; but that isn’t super comfortable. But I find 90 mins – 150 mins is fine with me. I’ll put on a good movie or binge the latest Netflix and off I go!

For the most part, if it’s nice enough to run outside, I’m outside. Despite all of the challenges with traffic, people and dogs, running outside is refreshing. I don’t like rain or snow. But bring on the heat. I run thru our heat wave last year. 30C+ I’m running outdoors and loving it!

Gear

In theory, you just need a good pair of runners to get started and that’s how I started.

However, when I started training longer distances, the amount of gear I needed increased. Here’s some gear that’s important to make sure your training is comfortable:

  • Real running shoes with proper support. I found Asics GT-2000 runners suit me perfectly. I love these. I bought 3 new pairs on my recent US trip. I use 1 pair for every day walking. 1 pair for indoor treadmill. 1 pair for outdoor training. And I have 1 backup pair ready to go. I went thru 3 pairs last year.
  • Find a water belt or vest that you like for hydration. I use a belt for shorter runs and a Solomon vest for longer runs. I can carry up to 500ML of water with the belt and 3L of water with the vest. I like to stay hydrated and usually sip water every kilometer or two.
  • On long runs, I’m wearing double layer Running Room socks. I’ve never had a blister with these socks. I’m a fan!
  • I wear 2 UNDR package performance underwear so I prefer running shorts without a lining. Otherwise, I found some yoga pants that I like for running or a light running pant.
  • I found a couple of brands of headbands that I wear to keep the sweat out of my eyes.
  • I have a variety of running wear for different weather conditions.
  • I use an Apple Watch for my fitness tracking and prefer the simple Apple workout running option. I’ve tried Runkeeper, but I find the Apple workout is fine for my needs. I also have a running playlist uploaded to my watch so I don’t need my phone with me when I run.
  • I use an arm band heart monitor for longer runs since the Apple sensor can be a little glitchy with sweat or if it’s too loose.
  • I use Oladance or Aftershokz headphones for listening to music. Both allow for plenty of outside noise for safety.
  • For snacks, I usually prefer granola bars or candy (jujubes or sour candies) but I used a lot of gels during my marathon training.
  • For hydration, normally I drink a lot of water and some BCAA supplements. Gatorade is still great post run beverage.
  • I have a 20-year-old Milestone treadmill that might be a relic at this point. But if it keeps running, I’ll keep running on it!

Wrap Up

I hope that gives you some information on why a person might run.

I run for fitness. I run for the fun. I run to set goals and achieve them. I run for alone time. I run for the community. I run for events and for the medals. I run because I like to collect running gear.

I run…because I’m a runner!

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