Runners get asked some silly questions by non – running friends all the time, it’s easy to get dragged into a hearty debate, but luckily most runners have developed stock answers to avoid conflict. “You ran a marathon? How far was it?” …. It was 26.2 miles, a marathon is always 26.2 miles! Did you win? No, no I didn’t win, it was tight but I finished 1036th. “Isn’t all that running bad for you?” Well it certainly isn’t as good as, say, sitting on the couch gorging on take-aways and beer, while chain-smoking, but hopefully I’ll survive.
One of my favourites – “Isn’t running very boring?” Non Runners sometimes dismiss running as a tedious, dreary pursuit. But in a world in which we’re all so busy and have so many distractions around us, it’s often rare that we actually have empty space anymore. The fear of boredom – “thaasophobia” , has meant that most people rarely have voids in their lives. We have an “always on” and “always available” world now. So-called “boring” activities, like running long distances, can lead to more creativity, because it is in this dull fuzziness of frustration where the mind doesn’t simply consume but it creates (Elpidorou, 2014; Mann & Cadman, 2014). Boredom leads to awareness, it allows the brain time to explore different ideas, thoughts or things to do. Running is a time of reflection, a type of meditation through movement. It forces people to live in the now and deal with the present. By the end of a these runs worries find resolutions and moods are lifted.
Runners often do some pretty irrational things that the general population consider unbelievable, stupid and crazy. Strange rituals and odd obsessive tendencies become engrained in runners personalities. So it’s understandable that people want to try and understand running by asking questions. Some runners get upset by these questions. I’m usually amused by them and appreciate the effort of trying to take an interest in my hobbies. Their questions about my running are likely no worse than my questions to them about whatever their interests are. But what’s more annoying than the questions is the unsolicited advice every runner receives. What really gets me is that it’s always those with no real health credentials that seem to have instant PhDs in this topic. The most common advice is that “running is bad for your knees”. No, it’s not bad for your knees. What is bad for your knees and other joints is not exercising and being obese. Warnings running will ruin knees and lead to arthritic and stiff joints ……. well it won’t! In fact, studies prove that runners are less likely to develop knee osteoarthritis (Chakravarty et al., 2008; Williams, 2013). Regular runners have been shown to have almost half the rate of arthritis as regular walkers and the runners with the greatest mileage had the lowest occurrence of joint degeneration (Williams, 2013). Knee pain experienced by runners is often caused by weakness or tightness in other areas of the body. Anyway, even if my knees and hips are bunched when I’m 60, I’ll have some fine memories of when they were parts of a well-oiled machine. The most frequently asked question is “But why do you run so much?” I don’t think people who casually ask that question want an elaborate list of all the reasons to run. There are times when I don’t want to get out of bed or when we struggle through a particularly bad run that we have to remind ourselves of why exactly we bother, why push through the difficult runs, hoping to sail through the next one. Ultimately the reasons are not that profound, it’s probably just because we can and we want to, most of the time.
Chakravarty EF, Hubert HB, Lingala VB, Zatarain E & Fries JF. (2008). Long distance running and knee osteoarthritis. A prospective study. Am J Prev Med 35, 133-138.
Elpidorou A. (2014). The bright side of boredom. Front Psychol 5, 1245.
Mann S & Cadman R. (2014). Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative? Creativity Research Journal 26, 165-173.
Williams PT. (2013). Effects of running and walking on osteoarthritis and hip replacement risk. Med Sci Sports Exerc 45, 1292-1297.