The Joy Of Running, by Amateur & Pro Runners Alike

Running is one of the best things you can get into. I’ve been running on and off for years, and while I still struggle to discipline myself to put my shoes on and head out the door, I can 100% say that every single time I’ve come back from a run, I feel great and am glad I went. Running for me really helps me clear my head and feel good about myself. But at least in Australia, it surprises me how few fellow runners I see at the oval, even on weekends with perfect running weather.

In this piece, I’ve collected stories & comments from fellow runners and hope that it can inspire at least 1 more person to consider getting into running. Earlier, I had put out this query:

Looking to hear from runners about why you run and the benefits it brings to you, beyond just obvious health benefits. Personal stories welcome. We’re putting together a piece intended to inspire people to start running and your submission will be published there.

I got some great replies to that, and have listed the best ones here. To summarize, these are the main reasons people enjoy running in the stories:

  • For mental health (running releases feel-good hormones like norepinephrine, serotonin, etc) and meditation
  • Unplug from work ordinary life
  • Let your mind wander
  • Get away from negative emotions like worry, stress and anxiety
  • A sense of accomplishment, progress and purpose
  • Feeling more positive
  • Runners high (yes, it’s a real thing)
  • Take in the fresh air, smells and sights

I strongly recommend having a read through each of the stories below, and hope that at least one will make you want to head out for a run. 🙂

Outside of the obvious cardiovascular and fitness benefits which running offer, the reason I love to run is because it gives me time to escape from the day-to-day grind and stressful challenges presented in both my professional and personal life.

While meditation and yoga offer wonderful stress relieving benefits, there's something about truly moving and getting outside of your home and having a destination to run to that offers genuine cathartic relief. When I run, I'm able to disengage from whatever it is that may be causing me stress and focus only on my running and my goal destination. This break from the world is invaluable, giving me the time and opportunity to become recharged for the days ahead.

--Jamie Bacharach, Acupuncture Jerusalem on Facebook


Years ago before I really got into fitness and personal training I wasn’t really doing well in any aspects of my life. Professionally my job was lacking and physically I was overweight. One day I decided I was going to try to get into shape. I bit off more than I could chew and joined a Crossfit gym right away. It was way too intense for me and I quit pretty quickly. This put me into a worse state mentally and soon physically I gained more weight because I found comfort in unhealthy food.

After a couple of months, I decided to give exercise another shot but didn’t want to waste money on an expensive gym membership that I wouldn’t use. I started by walking and jogging. First once a week then I gradually increased it until I was in decent shape and felt comfortable committing to a gym membership. Jogging is what helped me to build the base and get my foot in the door to really start building my fitness and passion for exercise. I later followed this fitness journey and became a personal trainer. It all started with my decision to get into shape and not having the option to do anything else. It grew into a passion and now is a part of my weekly workout schedule.

--Timothy Bigknee, SightsAndInsights


I like to consider myself a lifelong runner. There have been some breaks in the, three children,divorce, lack of care for myself, etc. And that’s ok. Each and every time I took a break, my comeback has come in stride with my running habits. I was a runner in High School. I loved it, it kept me grounded, there was no pressure to carry a team during a game. When I went to college, my running was for the most part put on hold. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t done that. I gained some weight, sometimes felt lousy about myself, and my schedule wasn't the best. That’s ok, because after I graduated, guess what was still there? Running! I would laceup and go out for a jog, or hop on the treadmill and get a good sweat. Soon after I got married. I got married pretty much right out of school, and had three children back to back. I hardly had time in between to take care of myself. But when I did, do you know what was there? Running!

After my daughter was born, the youngest of my 3, I got a divorce. It wasn’t easy, and that’s not the point of this story anyway. But do you know what my outlet was? Running! My parents were very helpful at this point...they would come over to sit with my 3 kids that were not yet at school age and I would go out for a jog. I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that time. I honestly think it saved my life.

Fast forward a few years….my kids are all in elementary school, I’m working from home now. I met a lot of other moms from the school, and we started having these massive playdates after school and on the weekends. It turned into Happy Hour every time. After a few months of this, I took a look in the mirror and did not like what I saw. At all. I had completely lost who I was. Guess what was there for me ? Running! I laced up my old shoes and went out for a run. But guess what? I couldn't run. I was heavy, I was tired. So I walked. I think I walked for 2 hours that day.

And the next day and the next. I knew that I could run, but how would I get back to that place.

This is really where I learned that running is a life-long friend. It never judges, fast or slow. Long run or short. So I kept going. I would run 1 minute and walk one. Even if I only had ten minutes. It built up. I felt better about myself. I had more patience with my kids. I left my job that I hated and started one in fitness. I ran a half marathon. I helped others train.

Running has given me life. It has shown me the way to happiness. I do a lot of thinking while I’m jogging. Sometimes I listen to music or a podcast. Sometimes I don’t. But what ends up happening every time, is that I reconnect with myself, my ideas, my values. And I I am thankful every day that I have two working legs, and am able to continue on this journey, not only for my physical health, but my mental health.

--Nancy Feinstein, @coach.nan


To me, getting up and out running is key to every week of the year. As a triathlete myself I train all year round varying intensity depending on time of year. With the current global pandemic from Coronavirus running for physical and mental health is more important to me than ever.

Putting on my running shoes to head out for a run in the rain or sunshine is simple. It takes no more motivation for me than it takes many people to simply have a lie-in on a Saturday morning after a heavy night out. By which I mean “no motivation at all”. I recognise not everyone has the same relationship with exercise but it is a habit that you can establish in as little as 4 weeks.

So why should you run and create this as a habit? The most obvious reason to run is for aerobic fitness. Running regularly as part of a fitness regime gives you an intense form of exercise that doesn’t need any complex equipment beyond a pair of trainers and it is something everyone can do. Beyond physical benefits this chemical release through your body of the endorphins your body needs means everything works better including your positivity and metabolic rate.

I’m a huge believer in the notion that the number one priority of any running should be enjoyable. If you have that then the rest can follow. If you don’t then, whilst a bit of external motivation such as entering an event or setting a personal goal can work short term but long term this can only can from within.

--Billy Ferguson, Trivelo


I began running many years ago after a serious brain tumor that nearly ended me followed by month sof recovery. Of course, I wanted to be as healthy as possible to avoid such a horrific experience again or at least be in the best shape possible to combat a similar situation if, God forbid, it happens again.

For many years, since I didnot actually like running, I would do so about twice per week for 15 minutes or so but I was always very intense so as to 'get it over with' while still improving my health. I eventually entered a 5k race and it just about killed me. Because I was used to running for relatively short but intense amounts of time, I ran the first mile at near the front of the pack (with the hot 20-somethings). My first mile was under 6 minutes. But of course, I could not sustain that. I was completely spent and the rest of the race was a struggle just to jog slowly. And I got passed by a 7-year-old. He was pretty impressive for a 7-year-old but he was 7 years old! It was then that I realized I needed to run longer distances and learn to pace myself better. Short, intense runs were surely providing some health benefits but I wanted to actually be good at running too.

In the years since, it has evolved into longer and longer distances and I have come to enjoy the time to myself (I do not like running with other people) and the exploring I get to do. Whenever I run I notice my surroundings, especially in a new area. I discover new trails or routes, new neighborhoods and explore the roads in my city that I would normally never drive through.

I have also really come to enjoy competing in races. There is no replacement for the feeling of running hard and coming in first in your age group (and ahead of the 7-year-olds!). What is even more fun about that is the older I get, the fewer people there are in my age group! And although I do enjoy competition with others I also compete against myself. Races are only so often, especially during the winter, so I am constantly trying to improve and get better and better times. The feeling of breaking an old record is almost as delightful as standing on the 1st place stand.

--Paul Claybrook,


I run because no matter what is going in in my life it seems more manageable during a run. It's a temporary escape from my worries, obsessive thoughts or deadlines. I'm not one that likes to sit still so in essence it's my form of meditation. The strange thing is, if you were to ask me what I think of when I run, I could not answer that question. Running helped me get through a very rough time when my mother had been going through cancer treatments. No matter how down I got and didn't feel like running, I know deep down if I could just get myself out the door and run 1 mile, I would feel better after. This is only a brief explanation of why I run. Truth be told there are may reasons. I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for running. There has never been a negative result from running. It doesn't matter how fast you run, or how far, your life can be greatly improved, if you just put one foot in front of the other.

--Cory Smith, Run Your Personal Best


I started running five years ago when I was encouraged to give it a try by a family member who wanted me to do a 5K race with her. I’ve been running ever since, and as the chief editor for Mom Loves Best, a parenting website, I often recommend running as an activity the whole family can do together.

To be clear, I was in my 40s and I had zero interest in running when my sister first asked me to do a race with her. Although I had played a couple of sports in high school, the running part was something I had always hated and, frankly, wasn’t very good at. I’m not a speedster by any means.

But I tried out the Couch to 5k program and made it through. At times, it felt like I wouldn’t finish the whole program, and I was shocked to hear myself breathing like Darth Vadar about 1 minute into one of my first workouts. It convinced me that I needed this program more than I thought I did.

It wasn’t easy, but I did enjoy the sense of accomplishment it gave me. My first official race in 2015 was a 4-mile race, and I ran every step of the way. Since then, I’ve done two half marathons, a few 10ks, and lots of 5ks. I generally try to run about three times a week, but sometimes I fall short of that goal.

Here are some of the benefits that running has brought into my life.

Changed body: I lost about 15 pounds from running. It was gradual and in combination with watching my diet a bit. But I seem to have developed more muscle, so people think I’ve lost more weight than I actually have.

I feel more adventurous: I used to think I couldn’t do a lot of things, including running a half marathon. But running helped me realize my body and mind are capable of a lot more than I give them credit for. Running has helped me embrace other challenges, such as leaving a high-stress, low-paying newspaper job to become a freelance writer and editor.

It’s led to other physical challenges: Hiking part-way down the Grand Canyon? Check. Trying white-water rafting for the first time? Check. Kayaking non-stop for 9 river miles? Check. Once I saw I could run 13.1 miles without walking at all, I felt so inspired to try things I always wanted to but never had the confidence to tackle.

Health: My resting heart rate went from being in the high 70s to being in the high 50s. My blood pressure is fantastic, despite being 47 now, and my blood sugar is lower now (which is at least partly because of the weight loss).

I’m a better role model: I really do feel as if running has made me a better role model for my 12-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son. They’ve seen me tackle some pretty big challenges, and they’ve seen that hard work really does pay off. Running is the great equalizer -- you truly only get results if you put in the work. There’s no way to cheat and still improve. My kids have even joined me in running some 5ks, so they’re getting healthier as a result of my running too.

Runner’s high: It took me a while to experience this benefit. If I’m only running a mile or two, I don’t get the fabled runner’s high. But if I run four or five miles, I’ll sometimes get that giddy feeling where I feel unstoppable.

Meeting new people: The running community is really welcoming, no matter how fast or slow you are. We’re quick to offer tips and encouragement. As you cross the finish line of a race, people you don’t know are cheering you on for no reason at all. It’s a beautiful thing to experience, and it reminds you of how good people can be. Runners are some of the most positive people out there -- it’s wonderful to be surrounded by people like that.

--Shannon Serpette, Mom Loves Best


Apart from the immense health benefits of running, it is also an exercise for the mind. Personally, it’s a great way for me to start the day with an hour of running. I prefer to do this outside to get some fresh air and to take in the scenery. It’s my time to calm down, work up a sweat and even do my planning for the whole day in my head. With keeping your body fit and active, running also flushes out toxins from the body as you sweat. Also, the running habit is easier to keep than simply going to the gym, which can be quite the chore. Here’s a tip: If you want to keep your running schedule going, choose a new route, try a road you have never taken each time(if you can). It will be an adventure you look forward to every day.

--Avinash Chandra, BrandLoom Consulting


1. Why do you run and the benefits it brings to you, beyond just obvious health benefits.

I run because it is something I can do on a whim, by myself and without any instruction. I tend to be quite competitive and I am my best competition. If I decide to go for a run, I am able to make it happen. I can run on my schedule and I am in control of where I go. I can go out at sunrise or sunset, run fast or run slow and I can go for a long run or a short run- it is all up to me. A run tests my body and my wherewithal and regardless of the outcome, I am always happy I tried.

Running these days helps me to reset my brain. Actually, it is also helping me reset my life. When I am running I don't succumb to the worry, stress or anxiety that occasionally try to creep into my head these days. It is also impossible to be angry or sad when I run. I am fresh and happy and looking forward to what is around the next bend; be it a familiar site or something new I see and want to share with my husband when I get home. I try to hold onto that euphoric feeling throughout the day. After a run, I am able to solve problems, my memory is supercharged, my head is clear, and I feel more at peace. Instead of being tired after a run, I usually have an ample supply of energy and I feel strong and accomplished.

2. Your personal story. The piece is intended to inspire people to start running.

I was in my forties when I started running, and my dad, who was in his late seventies at the time, told me he was worried I was too old to run. I participated in sports growing up and was a collegiate tennis player, but my interest in running was not piqued until I read an article in a magazine about the Falmouth Road Race. Although I had never run before, I decided to register to run the 7 mile race. Around the time I was training for the race, I noticed an older woman regularly running, at an admirable pace, by our family house in Cape Cod. I still see her running, 20 years later, and her pace continues to be praiseworthy. She is probably very close to the age my dad was when he tried, most unsuccessfully, to talk me out of running, and seeing her every day gives me hope that I will be able to continue to run, at my own pace and on my own terms, for many years to come.

--Gretchen K. Zelek, Donuts and Pie Fitness


I have been running consistently since 2014, and I'm still going strong today. I started running very casually when I was in university. It helped me deal with stress in a healthy manner, and it was a great way to break up study sessions.

I signed up for my first half marathon in 2014, and that's when I got hooked. The runner's high does exist (but don't expect to feel it right away). Running has made me a healthier person in so many ways. Physically, I am much more fit. It has also enabled me to maintain my mental health as well. After a long day, I lace up, leave the phone and home, and head down to a lovely running trail along Toronto's waterfront. After I'm finished, I feel recharged and a lot happier. It also helps with goal setting. When you train for a race, you often plan to run a certain time. Then you must work backwards and build towards that goal. Sometimes it works, and sometime it doesn't but you can still feel good because you put in the work.

I also met my now fiance through running. I joined a run group in 2016 to help me prepare for my first full marathon, and met so many lovely people. I didn't expect to find a partner there though. We did a few group workouts together in 2017, then went for a couple of runs alone, and the rest is history. We plan to be married in September 2021.

--Kim Brown, Condo Control Central


I began running when I was a young teen. I initially started running to lose weight as I was overweight when I was younger and it helped me to lose around 20kg. This helped me to become more confident, increase my energy levels and become more happier. As I have grown older, I decided to increase my muscle mass by performing weight-training exercises. However, running has always been a constant. It is not just a form of cardiovascular exercise. It also has tremendous psychological benefits too.

As life brings you stress, a run is the perfect way of clearing your head and de-stress. I also realised that as I started running more consistently, I felt more positive about life and I was more driven to succeed. I focused more on learning new skills and developing my career.

It's not an understatement for me to say that running changed my life. It has helped me improve my health, career and myself from a emotional perspective. I would recommend everyone to go on a run in the near-future and hopefully it has the same effect on you as it has had on me.

--Raman Sreedaran, TheGymCompanion


I first discovered the joys of running when I was at university. After long days in the library and in classes, I needed something to counteract the evening lethargy and headaches. I'd tried a few exercise classes and nothing stuck, then one autumnal evening I went out for a 20-minute run, which was as long as I could go without stopping.

I instantly loved it; the act of running around dark, wet city streets somehow became the perfect remedy for my fatigue. Running forced me to breathe deeply into my lungs, caused my heart to race and pump blood to all parts of my body, and gave me some truly alone time to clear my head. I would finish each run feeling completely satisfied and cured; it was like my evening runs acted like windshield wipers, clearing away the mental fatigue a day of studying had brought.

After a few months of running a 30-minute circuit, one evening I spontaneously took another route and ended up running for a full hour. I covered 10km and had run around the whole town - the feeling of having conquered such a long distance on foot was incredible.

Running came to give me a profound sense of satisfaction and achievement during a time in my life when I really needed it. I was essentially waking up and going to classes, and spending all day studying and reading. My evening runs became my salvation, the part of the day that was exclusively mine, something that had a satisfying beginning and end every single day.

After University, I continued my running habit. Slowly I built up to half marathons and marathons, and again the sense of covering such a long distance simply on foot was extremely empowering.

Running gave me such a strong sense of purpose that I decided I wanted to dedicate more time to it - I became an ultramarathon runner, and am now a qualified running coach and writer.

Nothing makes me happier than working with another runner to achieve their goals - whether it's weight loss, improving fitness . . . or simply to run more.

Each run you do can give you a real sense of satisfaction; you've completed a worthwhile exercise each day. In the longer term, running gives you a sense of overall achievement and self-worth - you're committing to something that makes you physically and mentally *better*.

The act of running is underlined by its simplicity - it's something our species was born to do, and all you need is some basic gear. It can be done alone, or with others - and all ability levels are welcome. Running provides the perfect foil whether you want to lose weight, get fitter, or achieve a goal like a marathon. Running is its own reward.

--Thomas Watson, Marathon Handbook


I have been running and jogging since I was sixteen years old. I remember feeling overweight and having low self-confidence in high school when I decided to start running. Within a few weeks, over summer break, I lost weight and started my junior year with a whole new outlook. I continued running through college and my early working years as it helped me lower my stress level and helped boost my energy levels naturally.

After I got married and had my children, I went back to walking and then jogging at a slower pace, but still received the benefits. Jogging helped me stay healthy by getting outside in the fresh air, staying physically fit, and improving my mood because running releases endorphins, our natural feel good hormones.

I am now considered a senior, over the age of 60 and I still run, jog and walk. I have maintained my healthy weight, stayed physically fit, protected my cardiovascular system and managed my stress level by continuing to run, jog and walk daily. It truly is one thing that brings me joy, no matter what is going on. I don't run races any longer, and it isn't about how fast or far I go, I am just enjoying the journey.

--Lynell Ross, Zivadream


My biggest reason to start running is that it allows me to feel free and unattached. For a few uninterrupted minutes in my day, I'm able to hit the pavement and just be with myself and my thoughts. Often, this is a great time for me to sift through a problem that I might have had at work or in my personal life and it brings clarity in a world that is otherwise filled with technology and smartphone notifications. This pandemic is also teaching me how much I appreciate how good it feels to simply be able to move my body and lose myself in the fresh air and disconnect that running offers.

--Ashley Rollins, Swift


My running story started in 2016 when I was hit with the most pain I have ever felt in my life. At the age of 44 I ended up in hospital and had 10ml of morphine pumped into me. Turned out to be my gallbladder was failing and needed to come out, ASAP! At this time I was 50 pounds overweight, drinking wine every other night and smoking 10 cigars every day. I lived off takeaway and fast food and I was heading for a serious fall if I carried on in the same way for much longer.

The malfunctioning gallbladder was the kick I needed to get healthy. I’d stopped smoking when I got out of hospital, stopped drinking not long after that. I cleaned up my diet, got myself a Fitbit and started hitting 10k steps every day. In 2017 I lost 40 pounds and felt much better for it.

At the start of 2018 I signed up for the Berlin marathon. I wanted to set a goal that would challenge me and keep me on the right path for a long period of time. Id run in the past but not for 15 years. I was slow and unfit at first but with consistent persistence I improved. I completed the 2018 Berlin Marathon in 5 hours 24 minutes. In reality it wasn’t about the time. It was about the journey Id been on for the two years leading up to me toeing the line in Berlin.

I wasn’t sure if Id continue running after Berlin before I took part but after I knew I was hooked and Id be running for many years to come. In 2019 I completed the Paris, Edinburgh and New York Marathons. I took an hour and twenty minutes off my marathon time.

Here in 2020 Covid19 has put a pause on the big fly away marathons. I had a place in the London marathon. I have a places in the 2020 Berlin and Chicago marathons.. but will they go ahead, who knows. I will be completing my own backyard marathon on April the 26th. I’ve been training and I need to raise some money, so I’ll be broadcasting it to the world on Twitter.

If you’d said to me at the start of 2016 that within a few years I'd have completed four marathons and countless other races I would have looked at my belly and laughed. Here in 2020 I have no belly and I’m still loving every minute of my running journey.

I am in no way special. I’m not gifted with great speed or strength.. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it doesn’t matter how far or fast you can run, it is the simple act of putting your running shoes on and getting out the door for a run that makes you a runner.

--Anthony Paul,


I've been running since I was 5 years old. It was a tactic my mom used (I'm one of four kids) to help me burn off extra energy. I fell in love with the way you can push yourself and see progress. I ran my first race on my 8th birthday and haven't looked back! Running brings me so much joy because I can explore different trails around me, join amazing running communities, and still enjoy being competitive as I get older.

One of my favorite recent memories was after a race in Vermont. A competitor came up to me and asked When did you get so fast?? I had joined a local running group that does track workouts on Tuesdays, it's been a game changer. To have others notice and celebrate your improvements, especially as an adult gives me such a sense of accomplishment. Feeling tied into a community that values exploring nature, pushing yourself and celebrating others is why I keep running.

--Meg Julian, Meg J Fitness


In my opinion, running is a great example of an activity, when you can work out your body on the one hand, but you can also completely relax your mind on the other hand. I know there are people who simply hate running but personally, I love it. When I was a kid, I used to like going running with someone - friends from my sports club, sister. But now, I enjoy running by myself more.

I recognize two, let´s say, types of running. One of them is an energic one, when I like listening to motivational music, running fast, sometimes even measuring the time etc. The second one is relaxing one, when I listen to relaxing music or even none - sometimes I enjoy just the sounds of nature around me. During this type of running I do not hurry and do not push myself beyond the limits. I like to let my thoughts flow and to think about everything but nothing, you know what I mean.

The last thing about my running - I 100% prefer the outside running. I think that the feeling afterwards is much better after you come back from the fresh air and eventually nature, not that you stop your treadmill and move yourself from the living room to the bathroom. I understand that everybody can have a different preferences and I certainly respect that. I juts wanted to share my personal opinion.

--Petra, Trendhim


I was never crazy about running & jogging until one day when I was in Rishikesh(India) trying my hands at Yoga. My American friend(whom I met as a tourist there) made me run & jog for about 7 kilometers every day for a week. Can you guess what was the temptation for me to try out running such long? It was the chance to get a glimpse of Dolphins which are sometimes found swimming and jumping in the river Ganga usually in the morning. And, we really got the chance to see the dancing dolphins twice. That incident made me aware of not only the health benefits but also made me lucky to get a glimpse of some amazing views of mother nature and its creatures. Since then I am on the Run till now every morning.

--Sampark Ray,


I've been a lifelong runner ever since my 3rd grade jog-a-thon to save the whales. Since that time, I haven't taken off more than 3 months from running. I started marathoning in 2008 during my senior year of college. I was in the ROTC program and ran the Marine Corps Marathon with my classmates as a bonding experience. I've now run 20 marathons in a personal best of 2 hours and 33 minutes.

Perhaps what I love most about running now are the stories of how and why people run. I started a podcast (the previously linked Running Shorts) to explore this topic. I love that running is a universal activity yet people's takeaways and experiences can be so different.

--Andrew Lee, Running Shorts


I have been a runner for about 5 years now. At first, it was in response to the doctor telling me I was prediabetic, then I got a high from running which lead to longer distances, then running in races, from the accomplishment of running races, I competed in a triathlon.

Running is a gift I give myself every time I step onto the payment. I leave my phone, work, relationships, stresses all at the front door for an hour. I run around the lake, take in scenery and embrace in the moment, the air filling my lungs, the sites, nature, acknowledge fellow runners with a smile, knowing we are all on a similar journey.

--Jeffrey Nasers


1. *Unplugging:* I run without music and I leave the phone at home, and this is part of the motivation for me to get out on a run. I love to unplug from work and life, and just take off on foot. It lets me clear my mind and be present. As crazy as it sounds, it's nice to hear the birds, the wind, and other sounds from around my city. I usually run at lunch for a mid-day break or right at 5 for a post-work release. It's amazing how great it feels to get away from the screens and sweat a bit

2. *Problem Solving:* I'd like to claim all my runs are meditative and focused on the present, but to be honest, many are not, but those where I can't achieve that detached state of mind, I get to think about problems I need to solve at work or in life. Without the distraction of music or podcasts, I can spend my time out on a run working through things I've been stuck on. Giving yourself some alone time to problem solve is a true gift!

3. *Sense of Accomplishment: *Sure, running is great exercise and it feels great to know you are doing something healthy, but this is not what I am referring to here. There's a sense of accomplishment from completing a hard run that's much greater than the realization that you burned some calories. Running is hard, it hurts, it takes time, it rarely feels like you're coasting on easy street, and that runners high is pretty elusive, but in doing something hard there's value and a sense of pride that will help you accomplish your other tasks for the day. Being able to tackle a hard run makes responding to difficult emails, or doing the laundry much easier.

--Paul Ronto, RunRepeat


There are COUNTLESS reasons why I run, but one of the main ones is for my mental health. Anxiety and depression run in both sides of my family, and I am no exception to the rule. Running not only helps by creating all of the feel good hormones that can help with mental health (norepinephrine, serotonin, etc.) but it gives me time in my day to truly relax and quiet my mind. I'm able to meditate between breaths and between footsteps. And I'm left feeling like I truly accomplished something. Further, running has allowed me to accomplish some pretty badass feats - including running two 100 mile ultramarathons. Any time I start to doubt what I am capable of, I only have to look to running.

--Heather Hart,


As a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist and runner of over 40 years, I share my personal relationship with this sport:

I was a chunky kid and always the last picked on any team in grade school. In fact, they'd call off the game before they'd accept me on the team! So I hated sports, and never exercised unless I had to at PE.

In my early 20's, I got into the Miss Atlanta Pageant (for my operatic soprano) and had to be in the bathing suit competition as well. I started running 1/4 a mile a day and felt like Rocky! I gave up sugar and carbs, and the weight fell off. I lost 40 lbs in about 6 weeks and never gained it back.

I fell in love with running. Anyone can run, and there is no scorekeeping, no competition, or rules. I loved that. Further, I love that it is the oldest sport known to man. It is mindless and meditative.

A major accomplishment for me was when at age 53 I did my first mini-triathlon and won 4th place in my age/gender division.

From a psychological standpoint, I have always believed there is a great correlation between running and persistence in any goal. Something to be said about just keeping on keeping on!

--Nancy Irwin, Dr Nancy Irwin


I've been running for nearly 20 years and have just recently made the transition from average to elite in the past couple of years. It's funny, now that I'm an elite runner and training full-time, I'm loving running more than I ever have and running faster than ever before!! What has made the difference? Keeping the joy, fun and PLAY in my running! My coach and I build weekly themes into my training, and it's my job to creatively incorporate them on each run. This keeps it fresh and playful. Our philosophy is that no matter what level of runner you are, if you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.

--Brittany Charboneau, Mercuria Running


Running changed my life. Before I started with running, I worked in construction, which is a tough job in Ethiopia, because there are not many machines and safety is not always guaranteed. I started running to get a good health condition, and I was so good at it that I was selected to train for the national Ethiopian athletics team. I could give up my job in construction, because the national selection paid me money. Suddenly, I could buy a house, a car and help my family.

But the life as an athlete is also difficult. You have to work very hard without any guarantee that you will make it to the international top. What helps, is that the athletics community is very close, so I made many friends who gave me advise and helped me if I had any problem. Today, I am a bit older, but I still earn my income from running. I work as an athlete guide for Run Africa. I also still train for senior competitions, but at this time we experience a global pandemic so all competition is cancelled. That makes it harder to train, because I don’t feel the motivation I have when I train for a competition. Luckily, I can still continue my training for visitors to Ethiopia.

--Gafe, Run Africa


Originally, I am from the Netherlands, but I currently live in Ethiopia. I love running and I feel very lucky to be able to run on the trails where big stars such as Haile Gebreselassie and Kenenisa Bekele also train. For me, running means a way to forget all my worries and clear my mind and body from stress. I have learnt that running means something very different in Ethiopia, where many people with talent put all their hope on running in order to escape poverty. The same stars I mentioned earlier form an example to many Ethiopians that you can be successful if you train hard, no matter where you come from. I have learnt that running is not just a hobby in Ethiopia, but a lifestyle. An Ethiopian who identifies him or herself as an athlete will always train, even when they are not sure if there will be food on the table that day, or when they feel ill, or when it rains. When your hopes for a better life are invested in training, there is no excuse to skip a training. I feel very lucky that I can enjoy running as a hobby and that I don’t have to take it as an escape to poverty.

--Ilse, Run Africa