Back when I was in middle school, my very first attempt at exercise was a run around the block. It was all of a sudden that I got the itch to move more than my daily steps—and running was the only form of exercise I had immediate access to. All you need is a pair of sneakers and, well, the ground below your feet.
Running became my after school hobby—even a 15-minute jog around my neighborhood would clear my racing teenage mind, and I got hooked on that post-race endorphin high. Seventeen years later, running is still my fave way to sweat, mainly because of how it makes me feel mentally, and how it feels to have my legs fly underneath me, and how happy I am afterwards. But people run for a zillion different reasons.
Fellow Well+Good editor Kells McPhillips—who’s running her very first New York City marathon next month—runs because it’s “quintessentially human” and allows her to test her limits, while beauty and fitness director Ali Finney’s reasoning has changed over the years. “When I was younger, I would imagine literally running to a better, healthier version of myself,” she says. “Over time, my relationship with running healed a lot of the things that got me into the sport in the first place by simply allowing space and time to work through them. It’s a simple formula: one foot in front of the other, and repeat.”
In the spirit of our United States of Running program—and also because we just love hearing about people’s different experiences with the sport—we asked runners, old and new, how long they’ve been running for, and what makes them continue lacing up.
Monica Chong—New York, NY
“In 2012, shortly after graduating from the police academy, I woke up in the hospital after being involved in an off-duty vehicle accident which caused me a broken femur, broken ankle, broken foot, broken arm, fractured femur, and fractured sacrum. At the time, I was advised by doctors to consider alternative careers as it looked as though I would never fully recover. It was that day that I decided I would work hard to persevere and prove that I could continue my career with the NYPD. After initially learning how to walk again, I set the goal to one day run the TCS New York City Marathon. This November, I will run my second TCS NYC Marathon with the NYPD Run Club to show the power of perseverance.”
Kathryn Davis—Fargo, ND
“I started running 13 years ago to stay in shape after undergrad. Running has given me close friends from all over the country, comfort through heartbreak, and incredible sense of mastery and confidence. It’s also brought a sense of normalcy after having kids and struggling to find myself again.”
Michael Capiraso—New York, NY
“I’ve run for 28 years. It’s amazing for my health and overall well-being. Physically and mentally it makes me feel great. Running inspires us to challenge ourselves, it provides a time and space to think creatively, and it also connects us to an amazing community of people and experiences.”
Vernell Yvette Shaw—Galveston, TX
“When I was six years old, I was hit by a car and the doctors told my mom that I would never walk again. Not only did I walk, but I went on to serve in the Army for 26 years and have since become a marathoner and ultra-marathoner. Since retiring from the Army in 2015, I was having a hard time adjusting to civilian life. If I wasn’t running I don’t think I could have overcome my PTSD—there are days when running is the only thing that makes me feel normal and okay. Running has helped me to deal with my depression, it gives me structure, it gives me something to look forward to—running is what keeps me getting up every morning with a smile on my face.”
Alexandra Weissner—Denver, CO, 13 years
“I used to hate running and would always try to find ways to cheat during a run or skip the run part of my training. Then I fell in love with it. Running has given me confidence and helped me figure out my life. The sport is not easy, and that first mile always sucks, but then you get into this groove and when you finish you feel amazing and accomplished. I start my day with a run at least four times a week. It helps me wake up and focus on the day ahead. I have ADD and dyslexia, and breaking a sweat first thing helps my mind settle down.”
Patty Fimreite—Laguna Hills, CA
“My determination is to not allow my physical ailments slow me down. I had Polio as a toddler which affected my left side. As a result, I have a two inch difference between my left and right leg with a full shoe size difference. At age 32, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which resulted in having a radical hysterectomy and the loss of my appendix, and two years later I was diagnosed with MS and have been determined not to allow my muscles to become weak. There are good days and not so good days, but each day I can move is a blessing. I run to show others that mind over body really does work.”
Bryan Ehnstrom—Martinsville, NJ
“My son, Hunter was diagnosed with spina bifida, a spinal defect, while my wife was still pregnant with him. I started to train for a marathon, and started a running club at the high school where I teach in Jersey City through the Rising New York Road Runners. I will be running my first marathon in yellow—the spina bifida awareness color—for my son. His strength through his health issues has given me even more strength to run my first marathon. Whenever I run a race or train hard, and I feel like quitting, I think of what he has gone through and how he still smiles through it all, and I can run for days.”
Iram J. Leon—Austin, TX
“I run because it’s the way to connect. I’ve run with friends, with my parents, with my wife, with my daughter. The highest mileage week of my life was 100 miles and not one of them was alone. And it wasn’t even training—just keeping company. Running became a way we can be alone together.”
Terry Hamlin—Charleston, SC
“I’ve run for over 50 years. I love this simple, yet nearly spiritual act of sailing along, with only my thoughts, dreams, and prayers accompanying me. Running has been a part of the human condition since we could stand, and it has been an integral part of my physical and spiritual journey since I first toddled across the soft grass of the fields of home. Running may leave me, but I would never leave it.”
Donovan Herman—Richmond, VA
“I come from a running family—my dad has run every day for at least the last 15 years, no excuses. Like, he has a torn meniscus right now and he’s still getting his runs in, so I suppose I inherited the running bug, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. I have a pretty active, and unfortunately, anxious mind. I find that when I’m running I have trouble letting that anxiety creep in. I get my best and healthiest thinking done on runs. Maybe it’s just the simplicity of it—you’re just moving.”
Talia Reisin—Vallejo, CA
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you. I used to ponder on the possibility of maybe one day becoming a runner, but I never really thought it would become a reality. I would say to myself: Where do these runners get their stamina from? One day it hit me—I wanted to challenge myself to be a better version of myself. So, I ran. Not long and not fast, but I did it. Gradually I was able to go longer and a bit faster, and now, I average two to two and a half miles each time I hit the pavement. Some days are harder than others, but I refuse to stop.”
James Burns—Chicago, IL
“Running is my meditation time, when I can be alone with my thoughts and quiet all other distractions. I run everyday with a chip on my shoulder for the kids who bullied me in high school and made me feel like I wasn’t good enough because of my size.”
Cortney Logan—Fort Collins, CO
“I run for brunch, for the hell of it, for sanity…but mostly because I can, and because I love the way it makes me feel. When I started, I only cared about reaping the physical benefits of running. And with that came a negative attitude towards it. So I wasn’t motivated and would try to find excuses not to run. It wasn’t until I changed my mindset that I fell in love with running. Now, it has afforded me the ‘me time’ and it stay grounded. It’s my happy place, and now I think: ‘I get to do this!'”
Isaac Grivett—New York, NY
“I love the freedom and flexibility that running gives me. As a member of the trans community, it allows me to compete in a mostly gender-free environment. When I race, I still have to designate a gender for myself—but once I’m out there, I can present myself how I want, and people of all genders are out there competing together.”
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