Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a runner. Nothing about “being a runner” is all that significant or glamorous. Some people speak in hushed tones about runners, as if running is something they themselves cannot do. Running is an activity that most people can, in fact, do. Running is not, however, an activity that all people find enjoyable. Because I've labeled myself a "runner" for the past 14 years, I've become acutely aware of the many downfalls of this sport.
Instagram is a weird and wild frontier full of semi-famous people and DIY Photoshop. My least favorite thing runners do on Instagram is add their PR's to their profile description, since you know, NOBODY CARES. Doing this implies that there is nothing more interesting about you than that time you ran a half marathon faster than every other time you've run a half marathon. Also annoying are the pictures of a watch, showing the world that you ran 5 miles today. Truly nothing could be less inspiring.
In the many years I’ve actively participated in the sport, I've fallen in an out of love with running, but one thing I do love about the sport is its consistency. Sometimes, even the best consistent and stable things become tiresome, and one of the best ways to amplify running boredom is by use a treadmill. I mean dreadmill. Why are they so awful? Three basic reasons:
1.) They don't take you anywhere. When we run, we typically go somewhere. On the dreadmill, we inch closer and closer to insanity while wistfully watching a tiny dot move around a tiny oval on a tiny screen in front of us. Gag.
2.) There is literally nowhere for all the sweat to go except all over the machine and/or the handsome man running next to you.
3.) Dreadmills are so freaking loud. Your footsteps sound like a horse. You must turn up the volume of your headphones to levels unfit for human ears in order to hear the sound of Rich Roll's voice (who else listens to podcasts when they run?)
Running is considered a non-contact sport, but plenty of runners will make or have made contact with the ground. Curbs, gutters, tree roots, potholes, rocks, fire hydrants, ice, snow, water, cracks, air. You name it, we’ve tripped over it. People like to joke that runners run because they are not coordinated enough for other athletic activities that involve ball catching, ball throwing, dexterous hand movements, hand-eye agreement or what have you. This is unilaterally true. The only upside to falling is that we are single-handedly responsible for keeping Neosporin in business.
Running can be dangerous for many reasons aside from falling. Nearly 60% of women runners have been harassed during a run. Many women I know personally carry pepper spray, mace, guns, or knives, further underscoring this violent patriarchy where women do not have the luxury of safety. Other sources of danger, especially when running on trails, include rattle snakes, bears, or mountain lions. Even after seeing a rattle snake, bear, or mountain lion, many of us return to the trails as if nothing happened, which is either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid.
5. Ugly Feet
Running is directly correlated with gross feet. Callouses, black toenails, missing toenails, blisters and blood and indescribable mayhem. Pedicures are an imperfect and impermanent solution to nasty feet, because as soon as we run again, the calluses reappear and we're back to square one. People who know more about feet than I do can tell you how to take care of them, here.
6. Body Hatred
Running is a sport that emphasizes leanness, which unfortunately encourages runners of all ages and genders to embrace disordered eating and exercise habits. Researchers at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences found that about 47% of elite female runners had clinically diagnosed eating disorders compared with 21% of women who were not elite athletes. Similarly, studies show that 45% of males with anorexia are involved in “an athletic team in which control of weight is important for good performance," like running. While it may seem that lower weights might improve performance, a healthy runner will beat a sick or injured runner any day.
7. Chaffing/Side Stitches/Pooping
Running is a great way to feel very uncomfortable for an extended period of time. Chaffing is nearly unavoidable (inner thighs, nipples, armpits, et cetera). Side stitches are nothing more than tiny blades in your rib cage (doesn't that sound fun?). And if you've never felt an urgent need to defecate while running, good on you. Here is some advice on how not to poop during your next race, I truly hope it works.
This list is not comprehensive, but it doesn't have to be. Despite the nasty, ugly parts of running, the sport is wildly popular. I love running because it makes me feel free, strong, and elated all at once. Running is both physical and spiritual; a type of moving meditation and a return to the most fundamental human desire to move. Roger Bannister said it best, "We run, not because we thing it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves."