It's Our Turn: Why do runners run?I have a hobby that’s hard for some people to understand: running. I know why it’s hard to grasp. We can look downright miserable out there, slogging alongside the road or on the trail – huffing away, sweating from every pore, eyes grimaced in pain and concentration. Why on earth would someone submit themselves to that kind of torture?
By: Al Edenloff, Alexandria Echo Press
I have a hobby that's hard for some people to understand: running.
I know why it's hard to grasp. We can look downright miserable out there, slogging alongside the road or on the trail - huffing away, sweating from every pore, eyes grimaced in pain and concentration. Why on earth would someone submit themselves to that kind of torture?
There are the health benefits, of course. You can burn off tons of calories, build stamina, keep the blood pressure down, even improve your flexibility and balance.
But I wouldn't be looking forward to running three or four miles a day if all it did was keep the pounds off. There's much more to running than that.
Despite what it may look like, running is fun, almost addicting.
It gets rid of stress. I can feel it melting away as I jog along, listening to tunes on my iPod or sometimes just the quiet sounds of nature. It's an escape to a world where there's only you, the sky and the path ahead.
It also leaves you with a strong sense of accomplishment. I log all my runs in a book, keeping track of distances, time, even the weather conditions and whether I was battling any pulled muscles or other runner afflictions. It's deeply satisfying to see the finishing times steadily improve or when you achieve a personal best.
I also look forward to the officially timed races - the 5Ks and 10Ks that are popping up everywhere these days. The races add an extra boost of excitement. I'm not one of those who will win a big award; they typically go to highly trained runners who finish with times I can only dream of. But there's more to the races than winning. It's meeting your own personal goals. It's the camaraderie of interacting with other runners. It's the fun part of recalling the race after you finish - a challenging hill, the conditions, the terrain, other runners whom you passed, or those who passed you, along the way. It's also cool to get a T-shirt or other keepsake of the race just for entering.
If you've never experienced the sheer fun of running, I encourage you to give it a whirl. If you're in reasonably good health, you can start at any age (I'm in that 50-and-older race bracket myself). It's cheap to get started. All you need is a decent pair of shoes and some comfortable clothes to run in. You can start out small - a block or two of light jogging, or even a brisk walk. And once you're used to that, you can always keep going a little further, maybe a little faster. That's another great thing about running - you set your own pace and milestones.
A few quick tips beginning runners may want to know from my own experiences: No matter how hungry you are, never wolf down two fast food burgers an hour before a race (I felt like a stuffed elephant); don't get discouraged when other runners pass you (once, at a humane society race, I was passed by a man carrying his dog); the concept of "coasting" doesn't work in running (with a mile left to go at a race this spring, I suddenly had the brilliant idea of going full tilt to pass a bunch of runners, believing that I could just coast to the finish line when I got tired - didn't work); unless you know what you're doing, don't try to chug water and run at the same time (I nearly choked to death); and always remember to stretch before and after a run (I've strained muscles I didn't know I had).
If you want to give a timed race a try, there are many opportunities available in and around Alexandria. A neat new event this summer is the "Holy Moly Ole Five" sponsored by Lakes Area Recreation (LAR). It's a series of five running races that will be professionally timed. Proceeds from the races will go toward youth programs and scholarships at LAR. (That's another great thing about races - proceeds usually go toward a good cause). The series kicks off on Saturday, May 19. To register, go to www.lakesarearecreation.com or stop in the LAR offices at 720 Fillmore Street, Suite B020. For more information or to volunteer, call (320) 762-2868.
I'm signed up for Holy Moly so you may see me out there, chugging along, gasping for air, looking miserable - but loving every step of it.
"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.