“The Presents of Running”


By Myrna P. Unger

Running is something I am thankful for. Sometimes as runners we become so focused on short term goals – running a marathon, faster 10K times – we forget to be thankful for the benefits we get from running. Whether you have run all your life or have just started on your running journey, we all receive many gifts from running.

Running strengthens us psychologically. Running enhances problem solving and the ability to make decisions. It creates a pattern for coping with stress and our limits. It teaches us to meet the challenges we face (work, family, friends, etc.) Set a goal, create a plan, and put it into action. Success or failure – reevaluate the goal, tweak the plan, and do it all again. Running also triggers the same chemical activity in our brain that antidepressants do. It elevates our mood – it makes us feel good. Self-worth and pride are the leftovers of a good race or run. If you question the psychological impact running has – just stop for a few weeks. Guaranteed your family, friends, and co-workers will encourage you to lace up your shoes, immediately! Withdrawal is not a pretty sight!

Physically – motion, exercise is essential to good health. Basic physical needs are met through running. Without exercise, we become mushy, inflexible, and weak; with it, we thrive. Running increases blood flow, decreases heart rate, tightens the muscles that support the spine, increases flexibility, and builds a shield that protects our bodies from the invasion of bugs and frailties. Running burns fat, builds muscle, and increases lung capacity. Internally, running slows aging. Sleep is deeper and longer- quantitatively and qualitatively rest is improved. Physical change is measurable. Running does not cure disease. It does not guarantee invincibility. Clearly though, the shield we obtain from running is worth carrying into the battle of life.

Running also enhances our relationships, intrapersonally and interpersonally. As runners, we seem to like ourselves better when we run than when we don’t. We seem to achieve a level of clarity in our goals and ambitions. When we run we talk. We talk to ourselves, we negotiate with ourselves, and we learn to laugh with and at ourselves. We better understand and respect both our strengths and our weaknesses. We learn to accept ourselves, if not even to like ourselves. Likewise, running increases our friendship quotient. It connects us. It bridges a gap. Running decreases differences in each other and increases our tolerance of the differences we do see. Running improves the quality of relationships. We more clearly see the benefits good health has on the way we communicate. People priorities are put in perspective.

Running gives us peace of mind and strength of spirit. Running makes our bodies stronger, healthier. It doesn’t solve all our problems, physical or mental. We still get sick. We still get depressed. We still disagree with each other. Yet, the quiet strength runners find to battle cancer, survive divorce and begin again, change careers, raise children, build relationships, and even just finish a race make running a gift within itself.

I’ll meet you at the finish.