You see them in those early morning hours or when everyone else is home relaxing after a warm comforting dinner. The runners. And you wonder, "How are they running right now?"
Believe me, a relaxing morning with a warm cup of coffee and my morning news source always sounds much more enticing, so why do we run? I used to ask the same question before too. As much as we talk about our physical health, our cardiovascular health, our bone health or the desire to lose that belly fat, we are running for our mental health. My need for good cardiovascular health is not what pulls my tired butt out of bed in the morning to go out in the cold air and run. I run because I know I will feel better. I will feel happier and lighter. I will have more patience and optimism. I will be kinder and gentler to myself and to those I love. I don't know all of this because my doctor told me. I know this because its my experience and that of everyone I know who runs.
We also run to cope with life's hurdles that were thrown our way. Runners are not running from their past, they tend to be the ones running towards the pain and fighting it so their future is that much brighter. Those I know who run are not running just to make it into that new dress. As much as that's the reason we say we are running, we are really running because our mom died, we lost a child, we cheated death, we lost our dad, we are coping with divorce, battling a life-threatening illness, and this list goes on.
So yes, I find myself running too. As much as I love how much better I look when I do, it doesn't compare to how much better I feel. There are days when the pain from losing my mom is too much and those are the days I push myself where many would say is too far. I will run so hard and so long that I come within a breath of passing out. But I need those moments of testing myself as a reminder that I am a fighter, that I am strong, and that I can and will survive moments when I'm pushed past my breaking point.
To all of you who run, let's start being honest with ourselves and others about why we run. It's one of those baby steps to erasing the stigma that surrounds us about mental health. So the next time someone compliments you on the healthy body you got from all the running you do and asks you how you do it, please make sure that you mention you run for your mind as well as your body.