Why I don’t run

by Kristin on December 15, 2011

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by net_efekt

I wrote this post a couple of days ago for the “Why I Run” series on Jennifer Luitwieler’s blog. She published it and then her blog promptly died. (I think her blog couldn’t handle an anti-running stance, so I guess I broke it.) While we are waiting and hoping for a full recovery of her blog, I thought I’d re-post my piece here, for all of you non-runners. It’s really not a post about running or not running, anyway. It’s a post about living like you know yourself—who you are, what you love, and what you need.

_____________

One day a couple of months ago, Jen was on Twitter carrying on about how inspiring her runner friends are, and how much she LOVED the newest “Why I Run” guest post. (This, for those of you who aren’t on Twitter, is a regular thing with her.) Because I have known Jen for 20 years (and possibly also because I am a smart ass), I responded by asking when she was going to start her “Why I Don’t Run” series.

Well guess what, all you runners? I think it starts today.

When I first sent the snarky tweet to Jen I had no intention of ever writing a post about why I don’t run, so I was not prepared for Jen to say “Great! Write it!” But when I thought about it a bit more, I recognized a flicker of something besides just smart-assery in my response to her tweet. That flicker, I decided, was at least worth exploring.

Why on earth don’t I run? And why do I feel both sheepish and defensive admitting it? If I were to pan out from the particular scene, what might this choice to not run say?

On the most basic level, I don’t run because I don’t enjoy it. This dates all the way back to my high school tennis team days, when we joked that our coach thought we were the cross country team, just wearing the wrong kind of shoes. Running makes my head pound and my back ache. It makes me feel like every vertebrae in my spine, right down to my tailbone and hip sockets, is being pounded out of whack. Plus it makes me overly hot, and I really hate being hot. Really. Ultimately, I get lots of exercise in other ways, like walking and biking, and I’m happy with my body and level of fitness.

So that should be the end of the story, right? But it isn’t. Because there’s that guilty/defensive part to deal with. What’s that about?

Clearly I feel like I should run. Not only do lots of people I know and respect run—including my husband and Jen—lots of cool-seeming people I don’t know also run. They’re everywhere. Let’s face it, it’s the cool kid thing to do in my 30- and 40-something-year-old world. Running says all kinds of positive things about a person: that you’re serious about your health and fitness; that you’re disciplined, and able to push past the pain; that you’re someone to be reckoned with.

Not running, of course, seems to say the opposite: unhealthy, undisciplined, uninspired, unintimidating. I am the un of running. Yuck.

But while there’s a part of me that wishes I was the type of person who runs, there is no part of me that wants to pretend. I’m too old for that, and I know myself too well. I have too many other important things to do with my time. Over the years, there have been various types of people I’ve wistfully wished I could be, but I’ve also become more and more sure of who I am and what I want and need for myself. Running is one of those things that just isn’t in that picture. There are other ways for me to challenge, inspire, push and grow (and other ways to stay fit).

I guess that’s what this post is all about—it isn’t about running or not running, it’s about finding and claiming yourself. Doing what’s good for you. Not worrying about what others think. And doing everything you can to make the uncool things you love a bit more broadly appreciated and respected.

(Now that I think of it, I could write a whole post about Why I Walk…. Maybe Jen will have me back. :)

Speaking of that, make sure you give Jen’s blog some love when it’s up and running again! And speaking of running, if you are a runner you will love her Why I Run series and her recently-published book, Run With Me.

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  • http://www.ihatemymessageboard.com Tracy O’Connor

    Hi! I haven’t been around for a long time. I can relate to this post so much, not just the running, but so many different activities that I think I “should” do because I wish I were the kind of person who ___________. It’s as if intellectually I know there is a lot to admire about me (heh, feel sheepish typing that) and it’s always better to be true to who you are, but there’s another, almost primal need, to for once be that person who is all-around naturally & conventionally admirable and not an acquired taste!

  • http://www.leighkramer.com HopefulLeigh

    As someone who has been vehemently anti-running for many years, I absolutely relate to this, Kristin. And even though I’ve given in to Couch to 5K training, I’m doing it on my own terms, which is currently about once a week and may be on hold once it gets really cold here. I’m more of a walker and hiker but I haven’t done either consistently in some time so running is my concession towards being healthy. I certainly don’t like running while I’m doing it but I’ve been rather amazed by the sense of accomplishment afterward.

    When I think about it, it seems like a lot of formerly “uncool” things are now cool. I’m not referring to hipsters, though. I look around my circle of friends and see knitters, Star Wars geeks, environmental activists, and so on. Maybe it’s not the activity itself but the passion that my friends have for them that makes them cool now. Who would have ever guessed?

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    I heard for years about the “runner’s high,” that euphoric state achieved sometime during the run where you experience Nirvana, inner peace, and a cocaine-like rush. These testimonies came from otherwise rational people, so I decided to give it a try–for two years. I built up to three miles per run, three times a week. The only high I ever got was the feeling of absolute relief at the conclusion of each run: “Thank GOD I won’t have to ruin again for two days!” Is that what they are talking about?

  • http://www.badmamagenny.com Bad Mama Genny

    Oh, I totally hear this, K.

    I can’t stand running. Runners are always telling me to push through the pain, blah blah blah. I’m with Ray, it never got better for me, and I refuse to waste hours upon hours of my life that I’ll never get back doing something that brings me no satisfaction. It’s not one size fits all, it’s an unnatural exercise for my body, and I don’t feel defensive about it, either–I just know who I am and who I am is not a runner, not even a little bit. If you get something out of it, fine, but if not and you’re just doing it because you think you’re supposed to or the talking heads of today think it’s “good for you” (AHAHAHAHHAA no)…well, I kinda raise an eyebrow at your life philosophy!

    I’d rather dig a trench for potato plants or knead dough or haul kegs or do any manner of useful activities than put one foot in front of the other really fast for no apparent reason. Do what feels good, y’know?

    Bad Mama Genny

  • http://aprilkarli.com AprilK

    I have run for exercise since my oldest daughter was born. I prefer walking, and I’ve enjoyed walking for exercise forever. But after I started having kids I needed a more efficient exercise and running was it.

    But I find when I tell another runner that I went on a “run” they immediately want me to run a 5K or 10K or half marathon. Over the summer I trained for a half marathon that was canceled due to severe weather. Talk about a let-down.

    I am no longer apologetic about not “being” a runner. I run for exercise a couple of times a week and choose other forms of exercise other days. (I like variety!) But there will be no races in my future, and no, I don’t “need” to feel how it feels to cross the finish line. I can live perfectly happy without ever doing that, thank you.

  • http://tracytodd.wordpress.com/ Tracy Todd

    Well, I don’t run either. That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to.
    The last time I ran, it was on a beautiful beach of the Eastern Cape coast, South Africa. The next day I got into the car with my husband and ten-month-old baby to travel home after our first holiday together. I made it home, eventually, paralyzed from the neck down. A tragic accident had left me quadriplegic for life. Thank God, my baby was safe.
    For more than 13 years every fibre of my being has craved, wanted, wished and dreamed of running. But, no matter how much I pray, plead, beg, cry, scream or rage, I am never going to be able to run, ever again.
    You say: “Not running, of course, seems to say the opposite: unhealthy, undisciplined, uninspired, unintimidating. I am the un of running. Yuck.”
    Well, I am most certainly not the un of running. I am healthy, not even had the flu in the past five years. I am disciplined – living this life trapped in my corporeal prison demands strict routine to enable small things, most take for granted, to function optimally like, my bowel and bladder being emptied at specific times of the day, every day, for the rest of my life. I am inspired to make the most of each day, each moment I have on this Earth. I know what it’s like to face death, survive and realize what a privilege it is to have been gifted an extra 13 years with my son, family and friends. I’m inspired to go from here and write my own blog on this topic. Lastly, I am definitely intimidating. One just has to go out to the mall with me to see how scary I really am to other people. Some can barely look at me, others will stare so that their mouths literally hang open. I can’t say I blame them because I often feel like an alien living in a world specifically designed for able-bodied people.
    Lastly, I am strong – maybe not physically but, more importantly, emotionally. Society views disability a weakness yet, it demands the utmost of strength for those of us living this life.
    If I had a choice, I would I would choose to run, without a doubt but, since I was stripped of that choice, I chose to rebuild a new, meaningful life in a different body learning many, sometimes very hard, life lessons along the way.
    Most importantly, I am… ENOUGH.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Tracy, it’s good to see you here again! You nailed this feeling: “…there’s another, almost primal need, to for once be that person who is all-around naturally & conventionally admirable and not an acquired taste!”

    HopefulLeigh, doing things on your own terms (and for the right reasons) is what really matters. And I think you’re right—if we embrace what we love and do those things with passion, we take control of the “cool factor” rather than letting it control us.

    Ray, yeah, what is that whole “runner’s high” business all about? I think it’s a scam. :)

    Bad Mama Genny, isn’t it interesting how society likes to make so many activities and preferences one-size-fits-all? I’m with you—my favorite exercise is the kind that also serves another purpose: walking the dog, raking leaves, biking around town to do my errands, etc.

    AprilK, that’s an interesting perspective—to be someone who runs but to not really fit The Runner mold and lifestyle. Here’s to claiming and doing what works for you!

    Tracy, when I first started reading your comment I felt terrible—both guilty and embarrassed all at once. But by the end, I had completely forgotten about me (thank goodness) and was fully immersed in your story and perspective. It is so powerful and so important—beautiful and heartbreaking and humbling all at once. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us. So many people need to hear this. I hope you not only write your own post on this topic, but that you also write a book! Many blessings on your writing and your life.

  • http://jenniferluitwieler.com Jennifer

    Well, wow. I think it’s interesting that there are so many perspectives on this, and of course Tracy’s is poignant for its own reasons. I love to hear all these different stories about how and why we do what we do. I think it’s more than running or not running, walking or not walking. It’s about how we choose to live. And all of our choices, regarding this, are valid. I also want to reply to Tracy O’s idea about should. I never do anything because I “should.” I dislike the idea of being guilted into anything. If I do it, it’s going to be because I want to or I need to. So, Tracy. If you don’t want or need to run, don’t do it! ;)

  • Mel

    I’m glad to see someone who is so adept with putting emotions to words as you, Kristin, articulate almost exactly how I feel about running. The only kind of running I enjoy comes in 25-50 yd. dashes. When I was a kid I regularly won these playground races. However, anything else that smacks of “distance” is torture for me. I feel like I can’t breathe, that my chest will burst, that my head will explode.
    But I do so envy those that regularly glide into my view as I drive, walk, bike around town. Just like swimmers who move effortlessly through the water as they swim laps [that's another envy I always experience]–these runners seem so at ease in their pavement element.
    But I just have to remember, running doesn’t have to be the exercise for me. Maybe many of these fleet-footed Mercuries and Athenas couldn’t ever contemplate an Intermediate Pilates lesson, my bread and butter….ha-ha-he-he.

  • Laurence

    I have to admit it: I’m one of those runners (3-4 miles, 5 times a week). I enjoy getting up and out with my friends early in the morning, but I also dunno anything about “runner’s high.” (Is that when your body just gives up trying to tell you that it’s dying?) I just feel better, the rest of the day and the rest of the week, for having done it.

    It’s all about figuring out what you need in order to feel good in the skin you’re in.

  • sarah louise

    THANK YOU!!

    I keep thinking about running, every once in a while, partially b/c it is what all the cool kids are doing, but I much prefer walking. When I walk, I’m aware of my surroundings. When I run, I’m aware that I’m running. My walks are my way of contemplating, and running seems antithetical (to me) to that.

    Wonderful post, esp. about finding what it is we really want, as opposed to what is cool.

    xo,
    SL

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    Jennifer, amen to this: “It’s about how we choose to live. And all of our choices, regarding this, are valid.” The important thing is taking the time to think through the “whys” behind our choices—in other words to actually *make* choices rather than just let life and other people control us.

    Mel, I’m so glad to be of service. :) But there is something beautiful and enviable about people who “seem so at ease in their pavement element,” isn’t there? What’s nice is that once I let go of that “obligation” to be one of them, I can truly admire and encourage them.

    Laurence, I love your definition of “runner’s high!” I also like how you put this: “It’s all about figuring out what you need in order to feel good in the skin you’re in.” That’s absolutely the goal.

    sarah louise, yes! You’ve touched on some of the primary reasons I prefer to walk. I love the contemplation and observation time. In fact, many of my blog posts are conceived of and outlined in my head while I’m walking. If I was running, my head would only be on this loop: “Why am I doing this? Why am I doing this?” :)