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Why do you run?

...someone asked me recently. And why do you want to run once in your life a 100miler?

I have been pondering over this now for a while, and a good few runs. And if during a longer run no answer manifests, I might not have a clear answer at this moment. I know I wanted to run 100miles for years. It has been a sort of bucket list idea (and is pretty much the only idea on that list). But why I got so fixated on that one distance I don't really know. It has something to do with how insanely long it will take and running a full day and throughout the night. But this is clearly not all there is. For me it really is the mental challenge.

But let's come back to the first part. Why do I run?

Running has been a part of my life since 2000. How it all started I covered in a previous post. Over the course of 22 years of running, I have learned that the reasons I run change over time. It seemed so obvious and logical once I noticed it.

The physical side

As a young runner, this was an important factor for me. Whilst running helped me deal with my anger, it also burns a lot of calories. In an unhealthy way, my teenage self was totally into that.

I didn't run any long runs (more than a half marathon) during the pandemic. When the world opened up I signed up to a marathon and started training for it. Being back to running long and the changes my body went through were a sweet reminder of the physical side of it that matters to me. Having a training plan that builds up week by week and seeing the changes in my body is very motivating. I also enjoy feeling more toned, but especially incredibly strong. Pushing myself through long runs helps me to feel very appreciative and proud of my body. During training and since then I have observed that I feel way better in my skin and more grateful for having a body that is able to run that long.

Running Ultramarathons was a huge discovery of what my body was capable of. In the beginning of running very long distances, it felt more like I needed to prove something to myself. In my thirties, it has mainly shifted to the mental side. But yes, running still makes me feel amazing in my skin.

The mental side

Running to me is so much more than a means to keep my weight, or about looks. The biggest value it ads to my life is mentally.

Running is not just about physical health, it has a significant impact on our mental well-being. Many of us nutters, running in any weather do so because of the positive impact it has on your mood. 9/10 I will feel better after a run. Worst case: there was no improvement.

When I run, I feel like I am in control of my body and my mind. It's a time when I can focus solely on myself and my own needs, without any distractions. It's a time when I can process my thoughts and emotions, and find a sense of clarity. It's also the time I take to ponder on big ideas or questions. If I can't find an answer during a long run, I might not yet be ready to give one.

Running has been shown to release endorphins, which are feel-good chemicals in the brain. It's I would say: "totally overrated" Might have experienced it, but it's not worth the chase.

Way more 'addictive' or worth coming back to is the meditative state of mind. The quietness. The nothing apart from you, your breath, the sound of your steps.

It's such precious time to clear your mind and focus on the present moment. This opportunity to just do one thing instead of switching between hundreds (speaking for myself here), this chance to be mindful helps me to reduce stress. The deep breathing with a focus on the extended exhale supports this process.

When I trained for my first Marathon it was during a tricky time of my life. I had just graduated from University, split up from my partner and was job hunting. A lot was in the air and I felt really out of control. I did not notice it so much during, but hindsight gave it away:

The regular structure of my trainings plan was this one stable thing in my life. It offered control and structure. On top of it running moves you always forward! This, plus having a weekly milestone achieved, by running every week the at this point longest run of my life was incredible!

In conclusion, running is for me so much more than just a physical activity. It has a profound impact on my mental health and well-being. Running improves my mood, is relaxing, gives me more self-confidence, and helps me to find a sense of clarity and mindfulness. It also really is my happy place.


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