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6 Reasons Everyone Should Be A Runner

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When New York resident Kathrine Switzer got out of bed on a rainy day in April 1967 and hopped in a car with some friends for a road trip to Massachusetts, she was pursuing a dream. At the time, the general population believed women were not physically capable of running 26.2 miles. But she loved to run, and had been training with the Syracuse University men's cross country team for more than a year. She even ran a 31-mile training run just to prove she could go the distance. And she wasn't about to let other peoples misguided beliefs stop her from running the Boston Marathon.

On race day, she showed up under the radar having registered under the name K.V. Switzer. But it wasn't long before her anonymity disappeared. Midway through the race she was assaulted by the race director who tried to rip off her bib number and force her out of the race. But she kept on running.

After the altercation, reporters hounded her with questions and snapped thousands of pictures. But she kept on running. The race director made a second attempt to rip off her number. But she kept on running. Late in the race when self-doubt and a flood of thoughts about the day's events started to sink in, she thought of giving up. And just when her drive to finish seemed to dim, she was buoyed by an almost unseen force that propelled her to the finish line.

The simple joy of running

Switzer's pure-guts run to the finish line of the Boston Marathon as the first female to officially complete the race transformed running and sports for women. And her story of perseverance and hard work still resonates with both men and women who want to run, stay in shape, overcome life's many challenges, and go the distance. Forty-seven years and 39-plus marathon finishes later, Switzer still runs for the same basic reasons.

“…Running is simple and only requires a pair of shoes,” Switzer says. “It is time efficient and convenient and gets a person fit quickly. It reduces stress, puts me in touch with my own thoughts, and helps me be creative.”

Running will change your life

Running will change your life. If you need to lose weight, improve your health or reduce stress, no other activity will help you make those changes faster than running. But there's more to it than just the health benefits. It's cost-effective. You can literally step out your door and hit the ground running. And there's a lot of self-confidence that comes with running one mile, then two, then three. When you struggle through a difficult training run or challenging race, you become a living proof of Friedrich Nietzsche's wisdom, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” You become a better runner and a better person in the process.

Most non-runners will never understand the allure, the fixation, the addiction, or whatever you want to call it that makes running so appealing. But there's ample evidence this sport is the best form of physical activity for a long list of reasons. If you need a little ammunition the next time you're peppered with questions about running from people who think you're nuts, put these bite-sized pieces of running facts and wisdom in your fanny pack and pull them out when the time is right.

1. Protect your heart

Right now heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. But it's largely preventable by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. In fact, a recent study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, found that running and even brisk walking can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and other heart-damaging conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

2. Get happy

When you're freaking out about a work deadline, relationship problems, financial trouble, or some other nagging problem that's causing stress and anxiety in your life, running can help. But you don't have to run far before your brain begins transmitting signals and releasing chemicals to calm your worries. In a Journal of Neuroscience Study, researchers found that running causes the brain to activate a neurotransmitter that works in a way similar to anti-anxiety drugs.

3. Save money

You don't have to consult medical journals for proof on this one. Running is the most cost-effective sport you can engage in. Shoes, shorts, and a shirt, that's literally all you need. And if you're a bargain shopper, you could buy these essential items new for less than $100. Try skiing, cycling, and a lot of other sports, and you'll easily spend $1,000 to get started.

4. Bone up

Did you know that an estimated 52 million people in the U.S.  have bone disease, also known as osteoporosis? The typical American spends more than nine hours a day sitting, and if you do that, your bones aren't getting the kind of resistance exercise needed to stay strong. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, people who participated in high-impact sports like running developed greater bone density than people who engaged in resistance exercise activities.

5. Make friends

For some people, running is a solo endeavor. it can also be a highly social activity that can help you meet new people and make friends. You can find a running club in every major city in the U.S., and hundreds more in smaller communities. If you show up without knowing a single person and say, “Hi. My name is Joe, and I'm a runner.” You'll be welcomed with open arms like you're part of the family. And chances are pretty good that you'll make friends quickly, connect with people with similar interests, and find someone to run with you other days of the week.

6. Solve problems

Non-runners always ask us, “What do you think about when you're running?” Sometimes it's the interesting scenery, passing cars, or TV show from the night before. But there's more going on than that. Running increases oxygen delivery and boosts your brain power. In a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people who frequently perform cardiovascular fitness exercises scored higher on IQ tests. Go for a run with something on your mind, and there's a good chance you'll come up with new ideas and creative solutions you haven't thought of before. Some people even use running as a form of meditation to open their mind to what the universe has to offer.

Keep on running

If you run to stay in shape, reduce stress, or unlock the creative side of your brain, keep logging those miles. You'll feel better, look better, and learn to persevere in the face of life's many challenges. What's your reason for running?

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