Last Updated on March 22, 2020 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
As I write this post, the running race-scene is postponed indefinitely. The world is experiencing a pandemic unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime, and understandably, events are being canceled as a means to slow down the progress of this virus. And we runners? We get it. We understand why races have to be canceled for the greater good of our society.
But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t disappointed.
As a result of now empty race calendars, countless runners are having a hard time finding the motivation to continue running. It’s hard to get out the door and log miles without the allure of a finish line, shiny new medal, and possible PR to strive for.
And it’s no surprise. I polled 289 random runners (who are all sitting around killing time on Facebook) as to what the initial motivation was when they began running.
26% of respondents answered that they started running because they wanted to complete a race. Another 28.4% said that they started for health reasons, but used training for a race as motivation to help them create a regular running habit. The results show that for many of us, our desire to run is – or once was – directly tied to the accomplishment of racing.
Personally, I started running only because my sister signed me up for a half marathon. The race atmosphere, the finish line, and the medal placed around my neck were addicting, and I wanted more. I quickly fell into the running world as an avid participant, always with a goal race (or multiple) in mind. It took a while before I fell in love with the act of running independent from the desire to finish a race.
Things You Can Still Love About Running – Without Racing
If you’re feeling bummed that you don’t have any races on your calendar (and it’s understandable) here are ten things you can still love about running, even without racing. Hopefully it will help change your mindset and get you motivated to continue doing the thing you love so much: run!
Feeling like a kid again!
One of the reasons I absolutely adore trail running is the rush I get from running uninhibited through the woods. It’s a combination of an innate, primal feeling, and a sense of being a little kid again. Nothing is more freeing than jumping off of ridges, splashing through puddles, and feeling like you don’t have a care in the world. I can almost hear my mom yelling at 6 year old me “Be careful! Don’t get your shoes muddy!” but she’s not there to stop me (sorry mom!).
The “Runners High“.
Norepinephrine. Dopamine. Serotonin. All of the “feel good” hormones your body creates when you go for a run. The chemicals that give you the “what a time to be alive! I LOVE RUNNING!” feelings. They don’t show up during every run, but when they do, it’s one of the most wonderful feelings on earth.
Related post: “The Runner’s High: What is It, and How Can I Get One?“
Knowing you are doing something positive for your body.
I could write an entire blog post highlighting the physical benefits that running gives your body, and you’ve likely read plenty of them before. Decreased risks of cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic conditions…the list goes on and on. Running in moderation keeps your body healthy, and your body absolutely does not care if a race and / or finishers medal is involved .
Accomplishing something kickass.
Certainly you’ve heard the saying “only one percent of the world’s population has finished a marathon.” I’m not sure how accurate that statistic is, but we can agree that running long distances is not something a lot of people choose to do for fun. Whether or not there is an official race or finish line involved, simply the act of covering multiple miles on foot is a feat that should be celebrated! Look at you go!
Spending time in outdoor spaces has been scientifically proven to be physically and emotionally beneficial. Time spent in nature can help lower cortisol and stress levels, ward off depression, enhance attention and problem solving skills, among other brain boosting powers. You don’t even necessarily have to be on a trail, simply being outside and away from busy spaces can stimulate these benefits. So, get outside and run!
Your running gear.
I’m not a materialistic person – I don’t own an excessive amount of possessions, I don’t strive to constantly buy more “stuff”. But that said – I do love my running gear. I love the feeling of donning my hydration pack, trail sneakers, and GPS watch. I love throwing a buff around my head or forearm, grabbing an SIS gel, and heading to the woods or the road. And when I get to bust out the trekking poles on rare occasion…watch out! I love those things! These are the tools of our trade, and I view them almost as “toys” that I don’t get to play with any other time but during my run. It doesn’t matter if I’m racing or not.
Relationships built through running.
The relationships that I’ve personally built directly through my love of running are priceless to me. From casual friends I only see at group runs, to people I’ve met on trail that have become some of my very best friends, running is the common interest that initially brought us together.
And I know I’m not alone. The running and endurance community as a whole is incredibly powerful, with or without racing. While right now isn’t the best time to be participating in group runs, those relationships will endure. And you can still continue to bond over shared experiences running, even if you have to share them over social media for the time being.
When my kids were babies, someone gave me a onesie that said “You look stressed mommy, you should go for a run”. It was funny because it was true. Running, for me, has always been an opportunity to clear my head , to disconnect from responsibilities, even if only for twenty minutes. It’s a chance to mentally work through my problems, or simply enjoy a few miles worth of quiet.
Sight-seeing / wildlife viewing.
One of the best ways to see a town or city is on foot. You notice so many more details than you would speeding by in a car. The same goes for viewing wildlife in nature. I’ve stumbled across some amazing birds, adorable rabbits, and even some startling snakes while running. I’ve also found some incredible waterfalls and breathtaking vistas while running. So, create your very own scavenger hunt – get out there and see what the world has to offer!
Simply appreciating that you CAN.
Take a look around. Now more than ever is the time to appreciate and thank your body for what it can do, for many are not so fortunate. Sorry to sound like a mom scolding you, but sometimes a reminder of how lucky we are is all it takes to shift perspective.
If you have a treadmill, count your blessings that you can run in the safety of your home, whenever you want. If you have a safe trail, path, or road to run, feel grateful, for many do not have access to such things.
Sure, it’s a bummer, perhaps even wildly demotivating, to not have any upcoming races on your calendar, either immediately or for the unforeseeable future. But running? It’s still always going to be there for us. And there is still so much to love.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.