I started running as a way to keep in shape for my high school soccer team. My school had an indoor and outdoor track team that allowed anyone to join, regardless of skill level. As a sophomore, I had no real intention of competing in any events, and only wanted a group to help me stay in shape. The coach stuck me in with the long distance crew, and seeing fit, short runners with quick strides left me worried that I would be left behind easily. However, it became evident after our first few group runs that the success of our unit depended on the slowest members.

The mentality of leaving no one behind improved my fitness rapidly. After struggling to complete three-to four-mile runs at a moderate pace, I was pestering upperclassmen to let me follow them on an extended loop so I could boost my mileage. At the end of my first year, my drastic improvement meant I could compete on a state level with runners I used to watch from the stands. What started as a reason to stay fit for soccer turned into a sport and a passion.

The sport of running is often characterized as a punishment, something that you impose on your basketball team after they miss free throws or your soccer team when they miss penalty kicks. Sure, there is an element of punishment in forcing athletes to run sprints. However, the challenge and physical exertion of the sport is what makes it so rewarding.

Whether you are competing or out for a casual jog, every bit of your experience is based on your own will. There are no teammates to blame for a bad pass, no hitters to blame for leaving you on base, and no referees to pin your loss on. The run is yours to craft.

Another misconception of running is that its accessibility is limited to athletes or former athletes. Unfortunately, this mindset is ingrained through running culture, which depicts fit athletes decked out in Nike gear or famous athletes in hand-crafted shoes. While this may woo a typical runner to buy a pair of Nikes anyway, it does not convince or motivate the average person to step out the door and jog. There is a whole crop of people out there who might be tempted to give running a try, but are unable to fulfill the promises of this sort of messaging.

So here is my plug as to why you should throw on the most serviceable pair of athletic shoes you have and step out the door. First, we have the benefits to physical health. A 2014 study published by the “Journal of the American College of Cardiology” found that 5 to 10 minutes of exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular illness and lengthen lifespans. Many also know running to be a way to lose weight, but don’t realize that the activity is also linked to an enhanced sexual experience.

If living longer and having better sex still doesn’t convince you to lace up, then consider the powerful mental health effects the activity provides. Numerous news articles and peer-reviewed academic works have been written about running and its anti-anxiety and anti-depression effects. This can be a fantastic alternative to the substances some us in an effort to relax from the rigor of college life.

I can attest to how challenging it is to be worried about exam deadlines and summer internships while in mile four of an eight-mile run. Additionally, you can leave your phone behind, and with it, your adherence to external distractions. I sometimes run with music, but the best runs are those when you can just think without the distraction of music.

Wesleyan students can have a tendency to joke about exercise as a waste of time, reserved only for Economics Brothers (I do major in economics but that’s irrelevant). But running is the first form of competition, dating back to ancient Greece in a 760 BC footrace. With this historical weight comes a simplicity and a chance to connect to the body’s natural flight ability.

I understand that this sport isn’t for everyone, and it can be daunting to put yourself out there in the public eye and hit the streets. Even some of my favorite running partners gripe about their dislike of people watching them run. But the potential for self-improvement, relaxation, and simplicity should be enough to at least give it a try on a treadmill or in a random forest just outside of the middle of nowhere.


Jack Leger can be reached at jleger@wesleyan.edu.

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