Running is stupid. That’s probably the last thing you’d expect me to say. But let’s be real for a minute-it really is. So, what exactly makes running stupid? There are almost too many reasons to list!
Running hurts. Plain and simple. Anyone that tells you otherwise is either lying or not trying hard enough. When you start running regularly (4 days per week or more), your whole body hurts. As I write this, I’m sitting barefoot at my desk, rolling my feet on a golf ball to break up the stress they feel. If you are doing a hill workout, your legs will hurt as you progress through it. Hell, they’ll hurt even more the next day if you don’t do a proper recovery! Doing a race? If you are like me, you’ll finish with a sore midsection and sore neck/shoulders (from tension). Running in the heat? It’ll feel like you’re pulling a corpse behind you (and if it’s hot enough, people will actually tell you that you smell like a corpse!). And speaking of smelling like a corpse-I can’t even begin to describe the laundry situation. There are several days per week when Annie and I are both doing 2 workouts per day. That’s 4 sets of workout clothes per day, festering in the bottom of the laundry basket. Sometimes when I’m doing laundry, I’ll reach in and pull out a tank top that’s still wet, 6 days later. The smell is indescribable. It’s like getting hit in the face with a shovel. A damp, stinky shovel. How about running in the cold? Your lungs will burn from the cold, dry air, and you’ll get to feel the magic sensation of peeling dried/frozen snot, sweat, and drool from your face afterwards.
The physical pain is just the beginning though. The mental pain of running is so much worse. If you are running fast, your brain is going to be constantly sending you messages that you are overexerting yourself and that death is imminent. These signals manifest themselves in many different ways-stomach trouble, a sudden jolt of pain or cramp, etc. but the ultimate goal of the brain is to trick you into slowing down. When most runners receive these signals, they obey them and slow down. Sure enough, shortly after slowing down, the brain says, “oops! My bad! I guess we weren’t about to die. Go ahead and start running again!”. Except by that point, you’ve slowed to the point that your goal of the race or workout is blown, which brings a different type of mental pain: regret. “Gah, why couldn’t I push through that?? I missed my time by 45 seconds! Why couldn’t I ignore millions of years of evolution of my brain and shout that voice down!?”. We’ve all been there, and trust me, it hurts far worse to slow down than it does to press through the initial pain. It’s my belief that most elite runners hurt just as badly, and sometimes more than, us “normal people” do. What makes them elite is the ability to harness that pain and negative energy and refocus it. Those of you who know Annie know that she often will run faster as races progress. She gets sick of the pain and mental battle and wants to be done…so she moves faster. That’s part of what makes her special. Most people don’t have that skill and end up walking or quitting altogether. The next time you go to a marathon, check out how many people are running strong at mile 8. Then jump ahead to mile 20 and take a look. That’s all the evidence needed to demonstrate how people shut down. How about training for a race for MONTHS…being meticulous in your prep and doing everything right. You are in the perfect position to win or set a PR or whatever the goal is. And on race morning, it’s 84 degrees with 91% humidity at 7am. Or it’s raining sideways with a 40 mph wind. I did a small marathon in IL two years ago that was interrupted by a thunderstorm. 3 miles of the course had ankle deep water to run through, on the street. No PRs that day!
“Running is a great hobby! All you need is a pair of running shoes and you’re ready to go!”. That’s another dirty lie that runners tell people to trick them into thinking running is great. First of all, a pair of running shoes isn’t enough. Most running shoes have a life of 300-400 miles. For people running 80 mile weeks, that’s a new pair every 5 weeks (at most). I’d make a bet that anyone running 80 mile weeks isn’t running in $12 shoes from Target. $100 is the absolute low end of good running shoes unless you find some miracle sale somewhere. So plan on $1000 a year for shoes, again AT A MINIMUM. Currently in our closet, there are about 18 pairs of shoes between us. Because you need your road shoes, your trail shoes, your other trail shoes for when the trail is too muddy, your road shoes that have 400 miles on them so you can’t run in them anymore but they still look brand new because they are only 5 weeks old so you wear them to the grocery store shoes, and your other road shoes that you wear when it’s rainy. Oh, and maybe your treadmill shoes. But the shoes are just the beginning of the expenses. Would you like to do a race sometime and get one of those sweet medals? That’ll cost you. We’ve both paid well over $100 for races (now, there are a LOT of local races here in the Milwaukee area that cost far less, but many of the “big races” will set you back quite a bit), not to mention any costs of traveling to the race, other gear you might need, etc. Perhaps the biggest shock to me though was the grocery bill. Runners, on the whole, eat nonstop. I consume 3500-4000 calories per day. That’s a LOT of groceries. So when someone tells you that running is cheap, laugh in their face and call them a dirty liar!
I could literally go on for pages talking about all of the things that make running stupid. How many baseball players do you know that hit the field with toilet paper in their pockets, “just in case”? How many tennis players do you know that have fallen asleep standing up while (theoretically) still shuffling around the court? Hell, I have a friend who has, on two separate occasions, dealt with varying levels of BLINDNESS DURING A RACE. You read that correctly-a combination of long runs and high altitude led to occular malfunction for this guy. And after it happened once, he didn’t worry or panic, and he was equipped to handle it when it happened to him a second time. Things like this would be ridiculous in any other sport…but in running we celebrate them and chalk it up as “having a good time”!
So why do I do it? Why am I out there six days a week, usually before 4am, making myself uncomfortable? Why do I and millions of other people willingly subject ourselves to it? This isn’t a career for me. I’ll never be an elite runner, getting paid to endorse products. I can say that for all the pain, sadness, frustration, and general shittiness that I feel most of the time when actually running, there is nothing that makes me feel better. I look at where I was three years ago, barely able to do a 5k without walking a good chunk of it. Now I’m doing 60+ miles per week, and feeling good about it. The pain that happens during the run doesn’t last, I don’t have injuries or things that linger. It allows me to clear my head. There is a saying in the running world-if you can’t solve your problems on a 10 mile run, you’ll never solve them. And it’s true. It’s time to think, or go blank. Listen to your breath, nature, or music. Running has taken me many places-from running down the strip in Las Vegas, to Monument Valley, to running up a mountain in the Japanese countryside, and everywhere in between. It’s who I am. It hurts like hell, but it’s a pain that I wouldn’t trade for anything on this Earth.