Back in the Paleolithic era, we had to chase antelope to exhaustion just for a decent meal. In the 21st century, running isn't required, it's a choice—one that nearly 30 million Americans make on a weekly basis. But why do we run? Let us count the ways.
It’s Better than Sitting in Traffic
Six years ago, Gareth Williams started walking to work to lose weight. Now he run commutes ten miles round-trip each day to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California, where he works as a structural biologist. “It gets the blood pumping to your brain,” says Williams. Recently, he converted his girlfriend, Anna Liao, who runs to her job as a scientific-engineering associate at the lab a few days a week. Liao doesn’t always look forward to the return trip. “But once I start running, I feel great,” she says. “It’s very de-stressing.”
If you want to run commute, first do some recon on your workplace amenities—Old Spice helps, but it’s no replacement for a shower. If you can, take public transit in the morning, then “just run home,” where a shower awaits, says Williams. “It will grow from there.”
It Goes Well with Beer
Beer and running are unlikely soul mates. The Beer Mile is run by everyone from college kids to Olympians. (Current world record: 4:57, with Budweiser.) There are nearly 2,000 chapters of the Hash House Harriers across the world. (Slogan: “A drinking club with a running problem.”) Countless local groups, like Run Wild Missoula, routinely gather to crank out a few miles with stops at breweries along the way. Maybe we all think it’s hydrating. (It’s not.)
Last year in Longmont, Colorado, a few buddies opened Shoes and Brews, a running-footwear store with a tap house—or vice versa, depending on your priorities. Try on a new pair of Hokas, then grab a pint of Dry Dock raspberry porter from the bar’s 20 rotating taps. “Beer and running are both social experiences,” says co-owner Ashlee Velez. “They just work so well together.” Being active makes you thirsty: “Then you don’t have to feel bad about the beer,” she says. “It’s a circle.”
Step one: Run.
Step two: Repeat as desired.
It’s the Ultimate PED
Running lowers the risk for Alzheimer’s mortality. It grows brain cells in the region tied to making and recalling memories. It can slow down mental decline in old age. It produces an enzyme in muscles that purges a molecule linked to depression. It prevents the loss of bone density. It’s associated with reduced risk of death from all causes and drops the chances of dying from cardiovascular disease by 45 percent. It improves knee health. (Seriously. Look it up.) It’s associated with lower risk of some cancers. It slows down the aging clock, reducing disabilities later in life. On average, running keeps you alive for five extra years.
It’s the World’s Newest Art Medium
Now that fitness trackers like Strava, Garmin, and Nike+ display your route on a digital map, some cyclists and runners have started using city streets to draw everything from marriage proposals to job applications. Perhaps the most prolific running artist is Claire Wyckoff. “It didn’t start as a running endeavor but as a creative one,” says Wyckoff, an advertising copywriter. One day in 2014, she ran around San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and the surrounding neighborhoods until she had outlined a corgi. Since then, the Portland, Oregon, native has made more than 20 street drawings, including an alien from Atari’s Space Invaders, a Mennonite, a middle finger, and a birdcage in honor of Robin Williams.
But her unlikely muse is the penis. She has drawn a locker room’s worth of John Thomases. Wyckoff likes the absurdity. “Running a picture of Goldilocks might not have sparked as much interest,” she says. There’s been an unexpected benefit, too. “Mapping a drawing, I’m way more engaged in the process of running it,” she says. “I’ll go an extra five miles if it means finishing a picture. It’s for the love of art. I can’t draw half a penis. I’m gonna draw the whole penis.”