Last week, when the Chronicle published a controversial article (“Extreme distance running: Too much of a good thing?”), it challenged many long-held assumptions of runners and non-runners alike. Using information from two small studies, the author contended that long distance running might present some health risks along with its benefits.
I was photographed and quoted as an example of a runner who could be at risk. Running about 80 miles per week on average, sometimes getting as high as 100 miles per week, I was their example of an athlete taking this ultrarunning lifestyle to the extreme.
Yet, study after study has shown the myriad health benefits of running and exercise. I’m not a medical professional in any sense of the term, so my response to the article was not “you’re wrong,” but rather “why do I care?” More importantly, why should you?
As outsiders, the non-running community assumes that we lace up our shoes to get fit, lose weight, and ultimately strive for optimal health. To them, running is something we do to stay in shape, not a source of enjoyment or sport. Until the last decade or two, marathon and ultramarathon participants were few and far between. Now, they’re all over our Twitter feeds, the evening news, and standing in line with us at the grocery store.
I’m not old or wise enough to tell you why this endurance running has blown up overnight, but I would argue that it has a lot less to do with health and a lot more to do with love of the sport and the mental and psychological value.
We run to be free, we run to feel our lungs expand and contract, to feel the trails and pavement beneath our feet, to hear […]