On National Running Day

I thought by the time June 6 rolled around this year, I would have profound, witty thoughts to share on National Running Day.

Turns out, I really don’t.

I love that National Running Day exists because runners are an interesting breed. Whether you’re Shalane Flanagan (which I basically am), gunning for a marathon win at the London Olympics, or you’re working up to your first 5K — or even if you have no desire to toe a start line because you’d rather run than race — we all deserve a day in our honor, to celebrate this weird sport.

As I’ve shared in the past, I never thought I’d identify myself as a runner. It took me a long time to finally adopt that title, but eventually I realized that I own more pairs of Brooks than work-appropriate shoes and the thought of circling the Central Park Reservoir six times is more appealing to me than most anything else.

I see you up there, Reservoir, and I love you.

I will never be the fastest runner. I will probably never run an ultramarathon, and it’s likely I’m never going to stand on a podium, accepting an award for actually placing in a race.

That’s fine with me.

I run because I love it.

That’s my profound, deep, totally shocking news of the day.

I am a runner and I love it.

I wish I were faster, sure. I wish I understood all the science behind running and training for races. I wish I could run every day of the week and not have to worry about injury. I wish I could run weekly marathons and I wish more of my runs felt effortless and fewer of them felt like I was towing a small wagon behind me. Like in that Oregon Trail game. Kind of.

I wish I raced as hard as I trained, and I wish I could completely overcome the mental games that have plagued my racing efforts in the past.

I have my faults. Many of them, in fact.

Brooks & compression socks. Pretty standard attire.

I have cried over “failed” races. I have shed a tear or two over bad long runs. I have beat myself up, both physically and mentally, and I have spent hours waiting for my Garmin satellites to load and then, hours later, analyzing my splits on my computer screen.

I don’t do these things because I have to. I’m not trying win at anything and I’m not competing with anyone but myself.

Running is something that became part of my life a few years ago, and since then I’ve been hooked. When I start my day in Central Park, everything else just seems to fall into place.

I look like a red-nosed sweatdeer. Or something. But Kelly and Lindsay look cute, as always.

In the past three years, I can only think of one time when I didn’t want to run, and it was because I was coming back from injury and illness and I was afraid. I was afraid of how difficult the run was going to be. And yes, that run was hard. But by the end, I felt awesome.

I always feel awesome after I run.

It doesn’t matter if I have to make 16 bathroom stops along the way, or if my pace is fast or slow. Getting out there is something I truly enjoy, and that’s the reason I do it.

Over the past few years, as I’ve logged tons of miles, I’ve met incredible people along the way. This morning, I convinced Kelly and Lindsay to join me to for a National Running Day celebration. They ran slowly with me (such good friends), and even though my stomach hurt and my legs were tired, there was no place I would have rather been than with them, circling the Bridle Path.

I’m changing as a runner — sometimes for the better, and sometimes, well, not so much. I always thought I was that girl who had to listen to music while she ran, and now I can’t remember the last time I wore my headphones on a run. I appreciate the sounds of Central Park, and music just seems too…loud.

I’m trying to learn to be more relaxed about my running. Sometimes I prefer to be on a strict plan, but sometimes I just want to go for a run. I don’t want a plan. I don’t want criticism for “doing it wrong.” I just want to do my thing, because that’s why I run in the first place.

I run for me.

I don’t belong to a team.

I’m not exactly a force on the race course.

I’m out there for myself, doing my best and, most of the time, smiling the whole way.

This is the face of a competitor, don't you think?

Some people don’t get it.

When I had to do a 20-miler during marathon training last year, I was told I “was working out too much.” When friends want to spectate the New York City Marathon with me every year, I have to explain that “I have a spreadsheet” and “I take this really seriously.”

I love my non-runner friends.

But I need my runner friends.

This is my favorite picture from my favorite night ever.

I’m so thankful for the people who have come into my life thanks to running, like my NYC Sweat Squad buddies, my wine-drinking-cheese-eating-OMG-so-fast friends Kristan, Nicole and Sofia, and especially Coach Cane and Nicole.

And all of you!

Thank you for coming here to read about my splits, my miles, my sweat and my craziness. You motivate me every day and you make me want to be stronger, smarter and better.

That’s all I have for today — some rambling thoughts about the thing I love. Some days running kicks my ass, but even when I want to hate it, there I am, putting on the short shorts the very next day. I can’t resist. I think it’s fun, even when it hurts, even when my splits are tragically slow and even when the weather sucks. Running, you have always been there for me. Love you lots.

Today, get out there for a run. (Unless you’re injured. Don’t run if you’re injured. Or sick. Or if you have a heart condition. Also then don’t go ride roller coasters either.)

And have fun with it.

WHAT DOES RUNNING MEAN TO YOU? Is it a way for you to stay in shape? A way to get alone time? A time to spend with friends?



55 Responses

  1. National Running Day is on my birthday? This is awesome.

    Running is definitely way to stay in shape, but it’s also the time when I do my best thinking and de-stressing. I’ve been running for about six years now, and I’m still amazed with all that running has taught me about myself—that I’m capable of far more than I give myself credit for, mostly!

  2. I always feel funny saying that I love running because I’ve never been a big runner or someone who runs very long distances. I ran a 5K last summer, then kept getting random injuries & pretty much ended up taking a year off. Now I’m getting back into & training for my first half-marathon. Even during my year of non-running, I still said I loved running because I do…I just hope I can avoid any more injuries so I can do it consistently!

  3. Friends! The people who I’ve met during runs are nothing short of amazing and you know something…I think they’ll be lifelong friends.

  4. I can totally relate to your relationship with running. It took me a while to refer to myself as a runner (and more so “marathoner” – even though I did in fact run a marathon haha). I don’t run for anyone else, just for myself, and I’m not particularly awesome at it. But I love it! I wish I could have run yesterday (I’m injured. Sad face.)

    You’re lucky to belong to such an awesome running community!

  5. what started as a way to burn calories and eat what i want has turned into a (hopefully) lifelong hobby. yay for celebrating running! and yay for running in nyc!

  6. I’m right there with you on why I love running, I’m never going to be the fastest one out there but my gosh I love it! The days that I wake up early to get my run in are always my favorite days 🙂 Running is such a large part of who I am and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  7. I love this post. Totally agree with trying to run “for me” instead of all the reasons other people do. Running is my best friend, my punching bag, my drawing board, and my mentor. It is rewarding and humbling all at the same time—and I love no matter how good or bad, you never leave a run in the same space as you started. But more than anything…I run because it makes me happy. Oh so happy. And

  8. Running is something I do because it makes me happy and feel warm and fuzzy inside. And I can’t afford a puppy, which would also make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy inside. 🙂

  9. What a great tribute to running, honestly. In the most non-runner way, you gave such a perfect why-i-run tribute because you are indeed, a runner. and a fabulous one, at that. I keep wrangling with whether I want to run today or not. I feel like I HAVE to because it’s runner’s day, but that’s just silly, isn’t it? Or maybe not…

  10. The only time I felt like I real runner was when I ran 5 miles in the pouring rain. Anddd I got a cold the next day. So epic.

  11. Running is something I never thought I’d enjoy… and then last year I decided to cross the Brussels 20k off my bucket list. I trained and I ran it. And crazy enough I discovered I actually like it, in fact I kinda love it.

  12. Running is my stress relief & when I accomplish my running goals – I’m more proud of that than almost anything else! Running totally takes dedication & hard work if you want to get better – & the Runner’s high that comes along with it makes it totally worth it 🙂

      1. Rock and Roll – San Jose! It’s shaping up to be a pretty kickass birthday party. 😀

        I ran my first 5k on Sunday and had an amazing time. After months of reading other bloggers’ recaps, I finally got to write my own! Another racing addict is born….

  13. I didn’t know it was National Running Day today! That is a perfect day to start my marathon training. I am working on running 50 marathons by the age of 50. Honestly, I don’t like running. What I DO love is the way that I feel when I’m done. That it motivates me to get out and MOVE and I also love the way I feel when I complete a marathon. I never used to believe that I was capable of doing something like that and then, when I finish, I have a renewed since of confidence in my abilities!


  14. I just love running. Everything about it. I love when it is ‘me time’ and I love when it is social time. I love when it is hard and when it is easy. I love having a reason to get up at 5:30 am. I love other runners who understand me.

  15. Running is my me time and one the major constants in my life! I have to travel around the world for my job often, and the first thing I always pack are my running shoes. Its like taking a little piece of home with me wherever I go!

  16. I run because I love it too. It gives me some alone time to think and destress while taking care of my body. I have heard the same “you exercise to much”. People assume that you are exercising to lose weight. Why can’t people see regular exercise as a way to maintain a healthy body and lifestyle.

  17. Running is a way for me to stay in shape, make me feel less guilty about all of the cake I’ve been consuming, and even more importantly, prove to myself that I can do more than I think I can if I put my heart (and body) into it. Since I don’t have any friends who are remotely close to my pace, it is also a great way for me to get some quality mind clearing me time, too.
    And holy (word I won’t type because I don’t want your server to hate me) do I need a run now! Plotting a run commute to my plans with friends at a bar later…..yupppp

  18. Running is the world to me. I used to be a hardcore runner – at least a 10K every day. I ran EVERY day. Sometimes twice a day if my schedule could handle it.

    And then life handed me a bucket of awful about ten years ago and I stopped running altogether. And with every 10 pounds I gained, the hope of running again got more distant. And then in January of this year, after a 10 year hiatus and 100-pound weight gain, I somehow started running again.

    And it was hard and emotional and awful in it’s own way but last month it became my THING again and I became a runner again. She was still with me, that crazy obsessed runner girl.

    Five months since January and 50-pounds down, I am back to running every day (although not quite a 10K everyday, but I’ll get there).

    Running is everything to me.

    1. WOW! Congrats Amber on the success over the past 5 months! That’s great…. and congrats everyone for your awesome running efforts. I am pretty new to running, but part of what I love so far is “connecting” with all of you just by reading this great blog and all of your comments. It is super cool and makes me feel even happier than running alone does…so thanks!! 🙂

  19. love this. i feel like any runner would agree that running is such a beautiful gift to have. it’s me time, it’s a way to clear my head, honor my body, and make myself feel better overall. it offers the competition i yearn for, yet complete freedom at the same time. so glad so many others are as amped about this day as i am

  20. Before I get started I will say I was super excited to see the back of a shirt this weekend at a 5K I was running and recognize that it was an I <3 Sweat shirt.

    I run because when I was a kid I couldn't. Not from any physical issue, just a combination of slow + weight = not believing. I run now also to get myself to push my boundaries; I love racing and setting new PRs. But a lot of my running is to clear my head. I wake up in the morning stressing, I go to the gym stressing, I start my run…all stress is gone. At least for that time, I have a clear head and a heart of joy. And a lot of times that joy carries over past that time.

  21. I’ve always run, but haven’t considered myself a runner until this past year. It got me through the toughest months in a veryyy long time, and I honestly feel like it helped me find myself and my confidence (so cheesy but true)! I’m hopeful to meet more runner friends in the next year who love early morning runs too!!! I run solo most mornings now, but your group runs sounds like so much fun! Must make it a priority in the next year. Happy Running Day!

  22. Running is like therapy for me and it keeps me sane! I love running as well. It relaxes me, and makes me happy 🙂

  23. Running allows me to spend the extra energy I have at the end of the day.
    No running today however, according to Google I have achilles tendinitis. I’ve been resting losts recently, but the pain has been here for 3-4 months now! I’m forcing myself to stretch daily (you know how hard that is)!
    Did this happen to anyone else? Tips?

    1. Oh no! Take good care of yourself so you can get out and burn up that extra energy soon! I’ve never had it so I don’t have advice for you other than to be smart and ease back into things slowly.

  24. Haha, this is so funny. I HAVE a heart condition but I run anyway and I LOVE it. I think it makes my heart healthier – it definitely makes my heart glad. But I do use my heart condition as an excuse not to go on roller-coasters!!!

    I didn’t know it was running day – I may need to squeeze a mile out now just to celebrate!! Thanks for this post – it’s good to just celebrate what we love, sometimes.

    1. Haha! Well then keep running, do it safely, and avoid amusement parks! Gotta keep that heart in top shape!

  25. I love running because it does in fact give me some me time and for some reason…things are so clear when you are out there. but that’s why I run. oh and because i love cheesy nachos and fries 😉

  26. I started running to maintain a 50lb weight loss. I continued running because I feel strong and healthy. I know that without running I’d be a sick cancer patient and instead I am a healthy running cancer patient. I enjoy solo runs on my quiet VT dirt road where I can enjoy the beauty and solitude. I enjoy runs with friends to gossip and keep in touch and I enjoy racing because I’m just a little bit competitive. I love running! Great post Ali!!

  27. Oh running, how I love thee! I didn’t know it was running day – now I feel guilty for posting kind of a negative running post today. I really love running, even though I’ve seen to have lost a bit of my mojo. And you have a spreadsheet for spectating?!?!?!?! What’s on it?? I’d love to see it! 🙂

    1. Haha. The spreadsheet includes the names/outfits/paces/expected “passing time” of all my friends running the race. Then, once I’ve seen them on the course, I check them off. It keeps me organized. And it works! Last year I spotted every single one of the people I was hunting for at NYCM!

  28. Running because you love it is the best reason! I love it too because it clears my head and makes me SO HAPPY. I celebrated with a morning run, and I’m going home later, so I’ll be dragging my mom out for a second run. She got me into running years ago, so what better way to celebrate than a run followed by a beer.

  29. Running is just amazing!!!! It’s a huge stress relief. If I happen to miss a day that I was scheduled to run it just throws my whole day off. I love to be able to just do something for me and be proud of myself for accomplishing it. I ran 10 this morning and it was great! Happy National Running Day!!!!

  30. This post made me smile 🙂
    In the past year or two I have finally realized that I AM a runner. I used to think it meant you ran marathons, or x amount of times per week, etc. Instead I love running because no matter what, I’m happy afterwards – whether it’s a 2 mile jog or a 5 mile race, I just love it. 🙂

    1. Yes! I hate when people assume that you’re not a runner unless you’re doing marathons. You’re a runner as long as you’re lacing up and getting out there, regardless of pace or distance. Happy running!

  31. Running represents overcoming obstacles for me. Having had asthma and crippling migraines my whole life, I have a terribly weak cardio base and running is literally the most difficult thing for my body to learn to do. But in 5 months I taught my body to go from only being able to run for 10 minutes at a time to running for over an hour straight. And that training experience and lessons learned can be a metaphor for life: that I can do so much more than I thought was possible, that there will always be reasons to quit but success means you don’t, and that true growth happens both from the drive to push yourself and the patience to rest. Running has changed my relationship with my body. I used to hate my body for plaguing me with asthma, chronic fatigue, and migraines, but now I sincerely appreciate it for the awesome things it can do and huge strides it’s made in spite of those limitations. I’ve learned to stop being mad at my body for failing me and be grateful for what it can do, to be super careful about how I treat my body, about resting and treating injuries and running slow enough so I can do what I want to do with it–which is run.

    1. Jessica, that’s an awesome story! Good for you! Keep taking good care of yourself and appreciating all your body can do. I love your outlook.

  32. I’m so glad we ran this morning! But I’m so mad you missed Desi too! It was a perfect morning for running nerds. Let’s do it again soooon!

    I honestly don’t even know if I have an answer to your question – running is just a part of me. I do it for a million different reasons and at the same time none at all other than the fact that it makes me happy. <3

  33. Running is a way to get out and move. I like to stay in running shape because when I really crave a run, I don’t want to be out there hating myself for breathing so hard. I almost always run alone or with my dogs. They are my excuse to run too.

  34. Running is for me, I run because I can and I feel great after I’m done! I love to run alone, with my husband and friends…. it all depends on the day…. Today my run for me just time to think.

  35. Thanks so much for this post!! I’ve slowly been getting back into running after taking a few years off and I’m just itching to get back out there! Looks like I’ll have to because it’s a holiday today!!

  36. Running is my soul and my identity. I’ll never be fastest and really prefer training to racing. Running will always be there for me. Running allows me time to reflect, time to escape, time to connect and time to feel strong and one with the world. People who get it; get it and that is all.

  37. Thank you for this post! When I think about what my relationship with running is, it feels like a continuous education about myself, my body, my mind, and the sport itself. I gives me strength, and sometimes kicks my ass. It gives me highs and lows other sports just don’t do. And slowly, but surely, I’m making runner friends, and meeting more and more people with whom I can relate to about the crazy relationship we have this thing we learned to do right after walking.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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