What Does Running Mean to You?
We talked to five people leading vastly different lives about how and why they fit running into their busy schedules
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At Outside, many of the sports we cover have a high barrier to entry. That is, they require ample time, money, gear, and often have a steep learning curve. Running, however, is a notable exception. It’s hard to think of any activity that’s more accessible, both in terms of equipment required and necessary terrain. (If you’re really hardcore, you don’t even need shoes—just ask this guy.)
As a result, running is uniquely compatible with pretty much any occupation, lifestyle, or income level. Running can be, at turns, a form of political protest, a way to exorcise personal demons, and even a strategy for professional advancement. It’s the most democratic of sports, and the benefits it brings will vary depending on the individual. Seeking to discover some unity in diversity, we asked a few folks about how they fit running into their lives and, more importantly, why.
From: Bend, Oregon
Occupation: Picky Bars co-founder and product developer, former professional runner, athlete advocate, writer
Miles per week: Forty-five
When do you run? I prefer first thing in the morning, after coffee and breakfast, but before getting to work. I’ve been known to do a lunch run as well.
How does running fit into your life? Because running feeds my work so much, I actually consider it part of my workday, even though I’m not a professional runner anymore. Running is the foundation for all the work that I do. It feeds the creativity needed in my pursuits and directly connects me to the sport that I’m serving every day. I had a friend tell me once that she would visualize her head opening up like a box while running and the wind blowing over her brain would be blowing off all the junk. I’d say that’s what running feels like for me—it helps distill things.
From: Columbia, Missouri
Occupation: Student-athlete at the University of Missouri
Miles per week: Seventy
When do you run? Either in the mornings, when I’m getting up for a six a.m. workout, or in the afternoon, around two or three.
How does running fit into your life? It’s definitely very grounding. If I know I’ve got to get up for a Sunday morning long run, I’m not out real late on Saturday night. I don’t like to think of it as something that defines who I am, but obviously it affects what I do. Does it impact my social life? I would say it does to a very large extent, since all my friends are guys on the team and lead the same kind of lifestyle. Time-wise, it's not too hard to be a student athlete, but energy-wise it can be tough; when two hours of your day are dedicated to running, you feel pretty fatigued the rest of the time.
From: Washington D.C.
Occupation: Press secretary at the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House
Miles per week: Twenty on a good week. Five on a bad week.
When do you run? It’s all over the place. For a long time, I was running in the mornings, just because I could get it out of the way and get my day started off right. But lately, with the stress and time constraints of my current job, I’ve been doing a lot of night running.
How does running fit into your life? My job keeps me very busy and very active. Throughout the day, I’m talking to people, and the activities I do outside of work involve constantly talking to people, too: I play soccer and teach ESL. Running is the only activity I do by myself. When I’m running, I can think about anything I want or not think about anything at all. [Mario runs without music.] There are times when I go running when I don’t even bring a watch or plan a route—I just go and I find myself going to new places in D.C. that I’ve never been to before. In college, I was a sprinter and ran the 400 meter hurdles, but I’ve been transitioning into doing more distance because as you get older you lose speed. Still, being a former sprinter, one of the things I miss the most is going fast. When I’m feeling in great shape, I’ll just go as fast as I can for as long as I can—I miss that feeling so much.
From: Chaska, Minnesota
Occupation: Writer and mother of four
Miles per week: Before kids, it was up to thirty-five. Now, probably less than ten, but it depends.
When do you run? Pre kids, it was in the morning before work. Now I would say I have a balance—if I’m going to be busy, I might get up and run before the kids are awake. But if my kids want to be a part of it I’ll always try to include them. I help coach an after-school fitness and empowerment class for girls in third through fifth grade, where we train for the 5K. So I run with them, after school. I also have a daughter who is on the middle school cross-country team. When she wants to run, I run with her.
How does running fit into your life? Running is my go-to if I’m horrifically stressed-out. It’s very much still part of my life, but not like it was when I was actually training for marathons or Ironmans—back then I didn’t have kids and it was all about me. Now, I want to raise my children to be active, too, so it’s less important for me to go out and get my run in as it is to somehow include my kids. I think I’ve been successful: my seven-year-old just ran his first 5K, which was fun to watch. I’m also the author of a series of children’s books called Go! Go! Sports Girls, so even the creative process for me is inspired by running. I just need to be outside and I need to be moving. In order for my mind to move, my body has to move.
From: Brooklyn, New York
Occupation: Parks project coordinator for the Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn
Miles per week: Twelve to fifteen
When do you run? Early mornings.
How does running fit into your life? I only started running recently. I grew up in Poznań, Poland, where sports are not part of school (or after-school) life like they are in America. All of my American friends that I have now played lacrosse or soccer in school—everybody did something. So now, having taken up running in my early 30s, I like that if I tell myself I’m going to go do it, I just go do it. I do it for myself—the accomplishments are mine. If I set out on a five-mile run, I know I’m going to finish it. In running, I’ve never not finished what I set out to do, which is not always how things go in one’s professional life.