Why I Run

Running is one of our defining characteristics. Plus it’s fun and healthy for you!

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The human skeleton amazes anthropologists.

We are not the fastest runners. Many other quadrupeds leave us behind when running short distances.

Yet, we are remarkably skilled in endurance running. Apart from accounts of endurant horses and camels, bred selectively for endurance, very few other species are able to run farther.

Bushmen are known to run quicker than duicker, stenbook and gemsbook during the rain season. They outrun wildebeest and zebra in the dry season. Tarahumara Indians chase deer through the mountains of northern Mexico until the animal collapse from exhaustion, as narrated by Christopher McDougall in his iconic book.

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Paiutes and Navajo of the American Southwest are reported to have hunted pronghorn antelope (one of the fastest of all mammals) in the same way. Aborigines of north Australia hunt kangaroo with the same technique.

So while walking on two limbs deprives us of maximum speed and agility, our bipedality (and lack of body hair) gives us an exceptional ability to dissipate running heat and run farther than any other mammal.

As far as we can go, running is one of the defining characteristic of humans.

This is what makes you and me human.

This is what differentiate us from the dog, the horse or the lion. They are all beautiful animals, but ultimately we can outrun them.

This is one of our most sacred talent that we all get at birth.

Many tell me about the pain. Difficulty breathing, heavy legs, painful feet or stressed ankles. Surely runners are sadomasochists? Yes, running comes with pain. But so does most things in life.

It also comes with pleasure. It’s freedom, leaving behind you all worries of modern life. It’s a wholesome connection with nature. It’s feeling alive, with awakening of the heightened senses as well as meditative calmness. It’s also the unique moment of the day where I get to reset, away from the whirlwind of life.

But it’s not just the joy and endorphins. A Stanford study followed 538 middle-aged runners for 20 years. Over the 20 years, the runners were half as likely to die (15% compared with 34%). The runners suffered fewer cardiovascular fatalities, and also suffered less from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other fatalities. The runners did get injured, but on average 16 years later than the non-runners. Endurance athletes also have a higher life expectancy compared to team or power athletes.

In other studies, running has a profound anti-aging effect, with less DNA damage.

If you’re looking to get into running, I would recommend:

  • Running is one of the cheapest and most accessible exercise, anywhere or anytime. You don’t need expensive gear. A pair of sneakers, a T-shirt and a pair of shorts are ok to begin with. Look at a training plan such as Couch 2 5k. 5k is a nice motivational goal, even if you’ve never run before.
  • If you are already have a good base, look into a local race, such as a 10k or a half-marathon. A race give you a serious challenge, and gives an interesting direction to weekly runs. It will introduce good changes to your diet, sleep schedule, and overall well-being.
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GPS sports watches like those from Garmin have training plans to help in your challenge. You can also google “Training plans”, a few are available for free.
  • If you cannot find local races, aim for a performance time, such as running 5 kilometers under 20 minutes. I do this challenge during the winter and it makes my training plan clear.
  • Running is not just stressful races or challenges. You can also run for fun. You can run for meditation. I run in various trails and it quiets my mind, especially in fall season. Other run to reconnect with their body and their environment.
  • If running is painful, if you are out of breath, or out of energy, pause, breathe. It’s ok. Walk around a bit. If it gets better, run a bit more. Otherwise recover for a day.

References:

15 thoughts on “Why I Run”

  1. Hey Heri, great blog post on your inspiration for running, thought it was really informative, clear and concise! I too enjoy the meditate qualities that running can bring and was really good to read someone write about it from a myriad of different perspectives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks , much appreciated. It wasn’t clear for me at the beginning and I found writing about it made it clear why I enjoy it. Do you have a special technique for meditation while running or it just “happens”?

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    2. No worries, much the same here. Not particularly a technique to speak, i’d say I reach a certain point during long runs where yes it just ‘happens’. I’m able to process my thoughts/concerns more fully and with little to no rumination. At this point it feels more natural to run than to walk.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. For the most part I can agree with your post.

    Back in the day, though, it took 4 Navajo to run down a deer; they dispatched it by smothering it with corn pollen

    A trained dog can outrun a human. Iditarod dogs run 5 marathons a day for 10 days, give or take a 10 k.

    For our physiologic adaptations to running, do not forget Kesselbach’s plexus in the nose, where we dissipate and enormous amount of heat.

    Then we come to the spiritual factor, which really is the most important. We can keep after the deer because we have hope, and I’m not sure that the animals models for hope have validity.

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    1. Thanks for the additions. I think humans bred selectively dogs, horses and camels and a few species were favorited and bred for their endurance. I’ll look into Iditarod dogs. For Navajos – I mentioned them last because I was not able to find much information about them. 4 Navajos makes sense , although for me it’s still amazing. Thanks for the comments!

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