Running Religion

So you think you live a moral life? The truth is people have always had a tendency to be dishonest, shiftless, and self-gratifying. Anybody who claims they never lie is the biggest liar of all. The reality is that lying permeates all human life. ‘None of us could live with a habitual truth-teller; but, thank goodness, none of us has to’ (Mark Twain).   So called “white lies” are an important component of our social fabric, it keeps society running (Rodriguez & Ryave, 1990). But still most of us think we lead honourable lives, and hopefully we do. But perhaps you have not taken complete stock of the sins you commit in the name of your favourite endurance sport – running. After all running has been compared to a religious experience.  Even though it’s hard to say what makes a religion, all sorts of activities and subcultures provide the meaning that in the past religious communities did. The similarities between running and religion are striking -runners have rituals and have observed holy days (race days), and in each community the more devotion one commits the more one is rewarded.running-religion But most importantly runners like religion enthusiasts also sin. They too are faced with the same struggle as church goers, to find a system to categorise their running shortcomings, so why not just adapt and adjust a system which is complex and inclusive enough to implicate a vast range of disgusting running behaviour, yet simple and memorable enough to inspire guilt “the seven deadly sins …… of running”

So first up is pride. Pride is a form of self-delusion, where the reality of the athlete who we are is substituted by grandiose illusions. All imperfections missed training runs and even a lack of ability on our own behalf is ignored. It is excessive belief in one’s own abilities. Pride often drives runners to race at a pace that is far too quick for their ability. Everyone does it at least once. Running the first mile of a 5km race 3% faster than the planned pace is the best possible tactic. On the other hand, running the first mile of the race at anything more than 6% quicker than goal race pace greatly reduces performance; so much so that running at this pace may even result in a failure to finish (Gosztyla et al., 2006). Not only can racing at an inappropriate pace ruin performance, training at too fast a pace relative to capability can increase the risk of injury (Fredericson & Misra, 2007). Too many runs completed at high intensities can cause a predisposition to injuries of the achiles, calf and plantar fascia (Nielsen et al., 2013). Faster running places more stress on the tissues of the lower leg and feet. So pacing isn’t easy, it takes practice. Developing a better sense of pace could potentially lead to better results and prevent injuries. So in the heat of the moment, at the start of the race with the adrenaline rising don’t let pride take hold and instead opt for the common sense of “pace control”.

The envious runner has the desire for others’ traits, status and abilities. We have all been jealous of other runner’s abilities at some stage and this can even arouse wrath and anger making us think of vengeance. You’re lying if you never thought about tripping the runner that breezes past effortlessly as you feel someone has put a clothes peg on your nose, a sock down your mouth and cavity blocks on your feet! Gluttony ……. is this not the reason we all run….  after all it’s an unreasonable craving to consume more than that which one requires – I do love biscuits. But Running brings the body to the cliff edge of pain and sometimes we fall off to swim in pool of hurt. So why do we do it? What is the reason we voluntarily run and suffer? It’s in search of the elusive “runners high”? Runners “lust” after this neurobiological reward (runners high) that is often reported by runners and is thought to result in habitual running. Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body and runners  addictive behaviour is an effort to get the next fix (Raichlen et al., 2012). But is it real?? Some claim to experience this phenomenon regularly and they can become greedy, they need to run faster or longer while others still run in hope of an encounter. Scientific research regarding this runners high is utterly unconvincing, But there is general consensus that the high is caused by the either the completion of the challenge or the release of endorphins. Whatever the mechanism It  has shown that running brings about actual changes in mental status, provides pain relief, promotes calmness and results in an improved a sense of wellbeing (Dietrich & McDaniel, 2004). But in devoting all this time to training runners can often be perceived as lazy, housework and other jobs take a back step, any gap in the fence is taken and the opportunity for a run is grabbed.

But it must always be acknowledged that all these “sins” have a thin line between virtue and malice. Yes pride can come before a fall, but It is certainly a good thing to have pride in one’s efforts and achievements. it is important to remember that this envy can take two forms. It can mean either that you desire to match someone else’s success – “Benign Envy”, or it can indicate that you hope the rivals’ success ends – “Malignant Envy”. It is only the benign form can help to create motivation to achieve goals rather than drag our nemesis down (Lange & Crusius, 2015). So, rather than viewing the rival as the adversary, it can be used as the catalyst to brilliance; it can be used as motivation to become the very best runner possible. So remember all events now usually have a great spread on afterwards, keep chasing the “runners” high and Sunday afternoons are meant for lazy post run couch recovery!


Dietrich A & McDaniel WF. (2004). Endocannabinoids and exercise. Br J Sports Med 38, 536-541.


Fredericson M & Misra AK. (2007). Epidemiology and aetiology of marathon running injuries. Sports Med 37, 437-439.


Gosztyla AE, Edwards DG, Quinn TJ & Kenefick RW. (2006). The impact of different pacing strategies on five-kilometer running time trial performance. J Strength Cond Res 20, 882-886.


Lange J & Crusius J. (2015). Dispositional envy revisited: unraveling the motivational dynamics of benign and malicious envy. Pers Soc Psychol Bull 41, 284-294.


Nielsen RO, Nohr EA, Rasmussen S & Sorensen H. (2013). Classifying running-related injuries based upon etiology, with emphasis on volume and pace. Int J Sports Phys Ther 8, 172-179.


Raichlen DA, Foster AD, Gerdeman GL, Seillier A & Giuffrida A. (2012). Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high’. J Exp Biol 215, 1331-1336.


Rodriguez N & Ryave A. (1990). Telling lies in everyday life: Motivational and organizational consequences of sequential preferences. Qualitative Sociology 13, 195-210.


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I qualified with an Honours degree in Physiotherapy from Trinity College Dublin in 2004. Since graduating I have worked in St. James Hospital Dublin and have worked in all the areas of speciality within the hospital including cardiorespiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, care of the elderly, neurology, burns and plastic surgery among others . I have also completed a post graduate certificate in acupuncture in UCD 2009. The Physiotherapy Department in SJH has strong links with Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and I have supervised undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students on practice placements and also delivered lectures on the undergraduate academic programme in TCD. I have a keen interest in all sports and currently plays with Cill Dara RFC 1st team squad, and Milltown GAA. I have previously worked as Physiotherapist to Co. Carlow Senior GAA Team, Milltown GAA, Leinster Junior Rugby Team and Cill Dara RFC. I am an experienced runner and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2002. I continue to participate in running events and multisport disciplines such as Gaelforce West, Gaelforce North and the Motivate Challenge. I have a particular interest in strength and conditioning. I utilise this knowledge of resistance training in the treatment of his clients. I am committed to continuous learning and development in order to ensure the optimal level of care is offered to my clients, and with this in mind I am currently undertaking a certification in Strength and Conditioning (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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