Saturday, March 30, 2013

Five Things I Love About Running

When I first began running about six months ago, I had no idea how addictive it is.  Since my main objective was to run a marathon, I figured that I'd train as much as necessary and then go for it.  Little did I know.  Not a month into my training, I started looking forward to my next run, buying all sorts of accessories, and signing up for more events (including a few that are pretty far in the future, such as the Surf City Half Marathon coming up in a mere eleven months).  When the subject comes up among my non-runner friends, a comment I often hear is, "There's no way I could run a marathon.  Running just isn't fun for me."

Well I've got a surprise for you.  It's not really fun for me either.

Sounds strange, right?  Especially from a guy who's running 35 or so miles a week and just admitted to being addicted to it.  It's true, though.  Running is a lot of things, but "fun" isn't one of them.  It's challenging.  Rewarding.  Inspiring.  But "fun?"  Not really.  But that's okay.  People do a lot of things that aren't fun, and find all sorts of benefits from them.  But fun or not, there's a lot to love about running, and make no mistake, I do love it.

And here's why . . .

1. Maintain Fitness With Less "Sacrifice"

As many of you know, I've lost a lot of weight over the last year or so.  Once I reached my goal weight, I knew that I'd have to figure out a way to keep from ballooning up again, like I've done in the past.  From experience, a knew that I couldn't stick with the diet I was on for too long -- eventually I'd slip up and start hitting the In-N-Out Burgers again.  That's why I started running in the first place, it was a way for me to develop a new focus (running a marathon) that would build on my improved fitness level.  A major benefit of this is that now I can have the occasional Double-Double
Run 4.5 miles and you'll burn this right off.
or a few slices of pizza from the New York Pizza Department (Corona, Ca. -- best pizza in So Cal by a long shot) without stressing out about it.  If someone brings cupcakes or donuts to work, I'll have one (but not five, as I would have before).  After all, a 13-mile run burns over 2000 calories.  Pizza on Saturday, long run on Sunday, it works out quite nicely.  As long as I don't overdo it (the pizza part).  And that's another thing.  After the weight-loss and new running goals, I simply don't WANT to eat all the bad stuff anymore.  Weird.

2. Set a Variety of Goals

Running is really for everyone.  No matter your experience, fitness, or athleticism, you'll always be able to find an appropriately challenging goal.  If you're just getting off the couch in an effort to get fit, doing a 5K run-walk is a great place to start.  After a while, go that same distance without walking any of it.  From there, you can go a couple of ways.  You can keep doing 5K's with the focus on improving your time, or you can increase your distance.  Or you can balance both approaches.  For now, my main goal is continuing to build up mileage to prepare for the Orange County Marathon, but I'd be lying to you if I said I don't have a specific time goal in mind.  Sure, for a first marathon I just want to get to the finish line, but I can't say I'd be satisfied with a time of seven hours or so.  I will definitely be happy with anything under five hours, but I'd say that 4:30 is within reach.  If I'm running a shorter distance, though, then time does indeed matter.  When it comes to the 5K, 10K or half marathon, it's all about the personal records.  Which brings us to the next thing I love about running . . . 

3. Compete Mostly with Myself

Not too long ago, I was really into tennis.  I bought a titanium racket, got some fancy outfits (hmmm...I'm starting to notice a pattern about myself here), the whole deal.  But the thing with tennis, it's really tough to play if you don't have a couple tennis-playing friends or family members.  And even then, if they're way better or way worse than you are, it's not much fun at all.  I also dabbled in golf, but all my friends were pretty fanatical golfers and I wasn't, so whenever we'd play, they'd be up on the green ready to putt while I was still looking for my ball out amongst the pine trees.  Or trying to figure out how to get the cart out of a sand trap.  Since my friends are generally nice guys they never actually said, "Hey Chris, playing golf with you is really a drag because we're good and you suck," but I'm sure it crossed their minds from time to time.

On this particular day, Johnson would've settled for "just finishing."
Running is a different story entirely.  All I'm focused on is improving my distance and improving my time.  What other runners are doing is irrelevant.  If you want to see what I'm talking about, go to YouTube and look up videos of runners finishing marathons.  It doesn't matter if a guy is finishing 2,391st in a field of 7,000, when he crosses the line, chances are he's raising his arms in the air just like the guy who finished first did.  Because marathons aren't NASCAR.  In NASCAR, second place is the first loser.  In marathon running, finishing 2,391st makes you the 2,391st winner.  Especially if you've just set a new personal record.  Another example, my brother and I both ran the San Diego Half Marathon a few weeks ago, and it was the first official such race for both of us.  Therefore, we both set PR's, we both "won," and we were both excited for each other.

Trust me, if I played against him in a tennis match, it'd be a far different story.

4. "Me" Time

I know it will sound counter-intuitive to say this, since running a long distance can cause blisters, chafing, missing toenails, and muscle pain, but there's something quite relaxing and peaceful about lacing up a pair of Saucony Kinvaras at seven in the morning and going ten miles around the lake.  Mix in some Pat Metheny playing on the iPod, and it's pretty exhilarating.  Plus, the solitude and fresh air provide a great opportunity to unwind from a day at work, figure out solutions to everyday problems, or come up with a catchy name for a running blog (I'm really wishing I'd gone with "Chafing the Dream" but it's too late now).  I know lots of runners who would say that what they enjoy most is that running can be a very social activity as well, and they prefer putting in their mileage with groups of friends.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, and I have found that running with a partner and chatting can make the time and distance go by faster.  But generally speaking, when it comes to my long runs, I'll quote Greta Garbo.  "I vant to be alone."

5. Events Are Fun

I'll stick to San Diego, thanks.
While I've already said that I don't necessarily call running "fun," that does not apply in any way, shape or form to participating in official, sanctioned events.  So far I've only been in a handful, but I'll tell you flat-out, they're just about the most fun I've ever had.  Putting together a week-long pre-race nutrition plan, packing my race bag, driving (or flying) to the event location, attending the expo, pinning the race bib on my shirt, mingling with other runners, getting a shirt and medal . . . it is all a complete blast.  And I can choose from any number of fantastic locations.  San Diego was sensational, and I can't wait for the OC Marathon that starts out right along the Pacific Ocean.  The Chicago Marathon is also in my future.

The Anchorage 10K, though?  You can keep that one.

If you're a runner, I'd love to hear what you like most about it.  And if you're not . . . well, why not?  Like I said up front, it doesn't matter where you are today.  Get off the couch and walk a mile.  Then run a mile.  Then two.  Who knows, your first 5K might be right around the next corner. 

Just don't let yourself use the excuse "running isn't fun for me."

It's not fun for me either.

It's way more than that.

Orange County Marathon
Newport Beach, CA
May 5, 2013


  1. I agree. Running is addictive! I've found I get the best fitness results running and that's why I stick with it.

    I like doing my long runs on Sunday, too and4:30 is also my goal for a marathon. I'm not sure I'll get ever there. I have a hard time getting my head around the marathon distance. I've done two, one at 4:48 and one over 5 hours. Injuries have been a slight factor and pushing myself through pain is not a strong point. The injuries are better now and I hope they stay that way when I'm ready for that next marathon.

    Ooh ahh, it's almost taper time for that marathon. Enjoy! You deserve it.

  2. OK, I've gone on before about how running to first base leaves me winded, but I understand every point you make here. I feel the same way about my fast-pitch softball (and I'm a catcher, as you know, so I actually do get a fairly decent aerobic workout four or five times a week, between the running and squatting.) It doesn't quite make up for the roast beef sandwiches, but it leaves me feeling slightly less guilty.