12 Things You Don’t Expect To Love When You Start Running

1. It’s not that you don’t get stressed — you can just deal with it better now that you’re a runner.

Whether it’s been a tough day at the office or just a generally frustrating week/month/life/whatever, the difference between my mental state before and after running is huge. You can leave it all out on the street, blast really angry music to keep you going, run a few sprints if you’re really feeling whatever it is you’re going through, cry it out and call those tears sweat. For some reason, running in the morning always acts like a buffer for the rest of the day’s stressors. (Can’t touch me, I’m high on endorphins baby!)

2. You’ll have more energy.

You would think that running double digit miles a week would deplete your energy levels like crazy, but life’s nutty and always gives back to people what they originally put in. Sure, there’s the odd day or two when you completely crash after a 12 mile training run and refuse to leave your couch for the rest of the foreseeable like, ever, but exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy, and happy people are the ones who don’t need that 3rd coffee of the day, hooray!

3. AND HELLOOOOOOO, FOOD.

I was a teenager in the Atkins and South Beach Diet heydays, and for a long time, I didn’t know what way was up in terms of carbs. Running helped me remember that yeah, your body needs a ton of different nutrients, and depriving your body of a variety of energy is only going to mess with you in the long run. And as I added distance, I realized how absurd it was to be afraid of something as innocuous (and delicious) as food. Go on, ask a runner what their favorite food is. They’re just going to be like, “All of it.”

4. There’s a whole new side to your neighborhood you can only discover if you run.

One of the best ways to get acquainted with a new neighborhood or town when you move is to go for a run and see what things you can find. Maybe you’ll run past a coffee shop (that you make a mental note to use as a restroom should you need it), or a number of restaurants you make a mental note to try, or you find out where the post office/bus stop/subway station is, or you see tons of interesting architecture — whatever it is, chances are good you might not notice it if you’re just getting from one place to the other at any other point of your day, your eyes permanently attached to your phone.

There’s a park by my apartment that I sometimes go to for a few easy miles, and at the end of the route is a little red lighthouse that I first read about in “New York Is A City Of Things Unnoticed,” an essay by one of my favorite writers, Gay Talese. I had vaguely known the lighthouse was in the area because of its mention in the essay, but would have only ever found it on a run.

5. And you see other parts of the world no one will ever see.

Beyond the fact that packing sneakers and a few gym clothes isn’t all that difficult, and you don’t have to worry if your hotel or host has a gym facility, running through different locations will always give you a different experience. You try running through Paris or along the Thames or by the beach on an island and not feel invigorated. It’s impossible. Can’t be done. Signing up for races in different countries is also a great way to see the world, too, and I know a number of people who treat their marathons as excuses for vacations – or maybe it’s that they use their vacation days as excuses to run marathons. Either way.

6. The community.

There are tons of blogs, Instagram feeds, twitter hashtags (#runchat is always good), running groups and hardcore crews, and inspiration everywhere you look. No matter how your run goes, chances are good there’s an easy way to connect with someone who knows exactly what you’re going through, and will give you a battle cry of encouragement to go on. Runners like telling other people they’re runners not to grate on your nerves, but because deep down, they know another runner will hear the conversation and boom! Friends for life.

7. The solitude.

Some days you just need to get away, tune out the world, turn up the Yeezus (or the book on tape, or the Katy Perry, or whatever it is that moves you), and just run. If that’s your “you” time, take it. It’s not selfish, it’s not a false sense of priorities. If that time alone is what your day demands of you, then that’s exactly what you should do. Texts and phone calls and emails can actually wait for an hour, so don’t you dare check your phone as you log those miles.

8. The fact that you’re generally a nicer human being all around.

This goes part and parcel with the smoothed out stress levels, but ask me a favor before a run, and I might be a little cranky. Ask me a favor after a run, and baby, I might give you the whole damn world. (You’d be that nice too if you were high on endorphins and could rest easy for the remainder of the day knowing that your workout was taken care of and behind you.)

9. The road will always be there for you.

Always. Sure, there might be a little rain here and there, and snow and wind and sweltering heat aren’t the best conditions, but if you can, well, weather a little weather, you don’t need tons of fancy gadgets or membership fees or whatever else. Factor in the gels and race fees and compression sleeves later — as long as you have your shoes and can get your butt out the door, you’re good.

10. It teaches you accountability.

You can seek out running clubs and groups and friends to help motivate you, but at the end of the day, no one else but you can push yourself that much harder to get that much better. No one else is going to yank you out of bed in the morning. No one else is going to force you to sign up for that race, and then put in the training that you need to. That’s on you. You have to make the time to run — and it will always be worth it.

11 Yeah, okay, the muscles are nice, too.

I could say that I don’t care about the fact that it minimizes the jiggle when I wiggle, or that I don’t feel any particular way about the fact that my butt has magically lifted three inches, or that I don’t think it’s impressive that my legs look awesome in shorts or heels or skinny jeans, well. I’d be lying. Because it’s kind of totally awesome.

12. That little nod you get when you pass another runner and they let you know with just a look that you’re in this together.

Because even if some days it feels like everything is a struggle and you should just get back into bed, you’ll pass some else who is just as dedicated to the early morning or late night or whenever-time-of-day hustle, and that little bit of encouragement is usually all you need to power through the last mile. Because us runners — we’re never alone. TC mark

featured image – ellaceron/Instagram

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