As the Second Running Boom (scientific term) has overtaken America over the past 5-10 years, people who never thought about trying out the sport have found themselves running distances they previously deemed impossible. I’m one of those people. If you had asked me when I was in high school if I thought I would have ever run a marathon, I would have told you I’ll see you in hell first. It just didn’t interest me. But like many people, I was pulled in to the sport by the increasing number of runners around me and all the fun it seemed like they were having. Medals? Free t-shirts? Beer? Uh, sign me up.
I’ve been thinking about writing a piece like this for a long time. It first occurred to me several years ago, when some of my acquaintances picked up running and, at the same time, started blogging (the natural progression of things a few years ago). More often than not, their blog posts made it seemed like they kind of hated running, minus the whole medals and t-shirts part. I found myself thinking “You don’t have to run.” And eventually, those people stopped blogging and stopped running, but they frequently made comments about “needing” to get back into it, and again, I thought “You don’t have to run.”
The thought has continued as I’ve read the comments left on various giveaways I’ve held throughout the years, but especially the most recent HOKA giveaway. Many, many people commented saying things like “I need to win these shoes so I can get my motivation to start running back!” or “Maybe if I have these shoes, I’ll want to run!” Again, I thought, “You don’t have to run.”
There are bloggers who I follow right now who don’t really seem to love running. As I read their posts, I’m thinking the same thing. “You don’t have to run.”
Let’s be honest – at various points over the years, it has seemed like I have hated running, and you have no doubt thought the same thing while reading some of my posts. “Danielle, you don’t have to run.” And you’re right – I don’t. However, I’ve never been able to give myself the freedom to not run if I don’t want to. Why is that? What is it about the sport, society, or some mystical force that makes us feel like we are literally required to force ourselves outside and put one foot in front of the other? There are some people who seem to never struggle with motivation and can truly say that with every run, they genuinely love running. But for the rest of us, there is some element of “have to” from time to time.
I can tell you that for me personally, I have forced myself to run, train, or race many times because of this blog. After attracting a small following, I felt obligated to continue – after all, it is a running blog. What would I have to write about if I did not run? Now that I have multiple freelance contracts, that impulse is even stronger. I have to run. But even without those things (because really, I could write articles without running), I think many of us continue to run because we see the sunny side of running everywhere and we think we must be doing something wrong if we don’t always love it. My Facebook newsfeed, Instagram, and blog roll are filled with people who are racing and smiling with their medals, who have just finished a 20 mile training run, who have their arms wrapped around their running groups. What am I doing wrong if I don’t love it? Everyone runs, so I have to too, right?
The reality is that I’m not doing anything wrong if I don’t always love running or if I don’t always feel motivated to train and race. I’m human, and so are you. Our motivations, hobbies, and interests change over time. Running may have served us well during one point in our lives, but due to injury, changes in circumstances, or whatever else, it may feel more like a burden than like fun sometimes.
I’m here to tell you that it’s ok to not love running sometimes. It’s ok if you never want to run another marathon, half marathon, or 5k. It’s ok if you want to run really slowly, or run-walk. Hell, it’s ok to quit running forever if you want. First and foremost, running is something most people do for our health and for stress relief. If it is not serving you in that capacity anymore, you don’t have to do it. There are plenty of other forms of exercise out there that can be just as beneficial and satisfying. Giving yourself the freedom to say you don’t want to run shouldn’t be a big deal. You’re not saying you hate puppies. Still, the way we treat the topic, you’d think that’s exactly what we’re saying.
You don’t have to run. I don’t have to run. Letting myself make peace with the fact that I might never care enough to train for and run another marathon has taken the pressure off and allowed me to find the joy in running and training again. Right now, I’m genuinely excited about getting out for my long runs, but that has not always been the case, nor am I naive enough to think that it always will be. When that day comes, I’ll extend myself the same empathy and understanding that I’ve extended everyone else throughout the years, and I’ll tell myself “You don’t have to run.” And then, when I want to again, I will.