Running is bad for you

Woman stretching by a tree, overlaid by the Ordinary Runner logo

Some would say

A friend of mine, we’ll call her Gemma, will tell you, unequivocally, that running is bad for you. And, in her experience, she’s right – it’s awful. She once ran a charity 10k. It took “ages”, caused countless blisters, and guaranteed she didn’t run again for several years.

Since then, she hasn’t run more than a grudging 5K. You could argue that her heart isn’t in it. And, if that is the case, then it’s fair enough – she hates running. And that’s also fair enough. No one has to like running. After all, there are ‘other’ types of exercise. There’s also No Exercise, if that’s what you prefer.

But for Gemma, there’s no doubt – running is bad for you and she has no truck with it.

And they have a point

I could make a similar case. Before I started running, I almost never suffered injuries. In fact, I had no injuries from leaving school at 18 until I started running in my thirties. Almost 15 years injury free.

Now, as I creep towards 15 years of running, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve limped, hobbled or stepped gingerly. There’s always something. My right knee flairs up each winter. One of my toes gets stiff, cramps, then sort of crunches when I wiggle it. And my calves. Oh, those crumpled lumps of agony. Some days it feels like they’re trapped in the grasp of an angry giant.

And my response to all this? Yoga. Stretching. Occasional, costly visits to a physio. In all those years when I didn’t run, we’ll call them the Painless Years, I visited no physios. Not once. Nor an osteopath, neither.

No, I was free to spend my money on fags and booze and other things that have nothing to do with running. In fact, back then, none of my money was spent on anything even slightly linked with running. Which brings something else to mind.

It’s not cheap

Okay, let’s start with the basics and go from there.

Technical t-shirts and shorts, for the warmer months. Cold days demand a different wardrobe – tights, gloves, jackets, base layers. I don’t want to consider how much I’ve spent on running gear. It’s definitely a lot more than I’ve spent on ‘normal’ clothes.

Further down, we get to trainer town. They’re not cheap, even if you seek out last year’s model. And we get through them. Miles and miles of trail or tarmac will knacker any trainers. The outer sole wears down. The upper strains and tears. The mid sole loses its bounce, and you find yourself plodding on a pair of pancakes. If you don’t change them, you’ll slip on damp ground, poke out a toe or, at the very least, your legs will take a pounding. If you do change them, your bank balance bears the brunt.

Man's feet as he runs away from the camera
Image by Tara Glaser on Unsplash

Then we get onto watches. Yes, I know, you don’t need a GPS watch. But how else do you know how far or how long or what segments or… stats! How do you know your stats without a GPS watch? Hmmm? Stats! Okay, maybe I have an issue to work through there. Let’s move on, shall we?

Then there’s all those races

Right now, May 2021, races are not the concern they once were. But they’re making a welcome return. And not a moment too soon.

sign saying caution runners
Image by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

By which I mean: these races are a terrible, time-consuming drain on our hard-earned funds. As if running wasn’t already bad for your bank balance, along come races to steal what little money you have left.

That’s not even the worst of it. The effort it takes to train for them is unsustainable. I mean, how are we supposed to fit any running in, when we’re spending all our time training for races? Miles and miles of joyful running passed up in favour of a training schedule designed to help you beat a PB. Pfft.

And – be honest here – how many times have you injured yourself training for a race? Me? Many. See: even practising running is bad for you. And what do we get in return, aside from that rapturous flood of happy brain juice? I’ll tell you what: we get a bag of marketing guff, a new t-shirt to cram into our bulging drawers and a lovely, shiny new medal to add to our collection. Awful.

And lost weekends

Back in the Painless Years, weekends were for drinking and suffering the consequences of drinking. Long, lazy days languishing in the throes of nauseous turmoil, cured only by more booze. Admittedly, this was also BC (Before Children), but there’s a whole other blog post on why children are bad for you – one that I’ll leave to the many bloggers who specialise in moaning about their kids.

Nowadays, Saturday morning means parkrun (or, for now, (not)parkrun). While, for many, Sundays are given over to the weekly joy that is the long run. So, tell me this: how am I supposed to wallow in the existential horror of a drawn-out hangover when there’s a free, weekly, timed 5K waiting in my local park/seafront promenade? I’ll answer for you: it’s impossible.

Aside from the fact that a proper hangover now feels like I’ve been bundled into a suitcase and flung down the stairs, running is definitely bad for my social life. At least, the social life I remember from the Painless Years, BC. Sure, I’m glossing over other, probably related factors, like family, work, my age, the fact I’m not very sociable. But the point is, running is bad for you, in so many ways.

So, why do it?

It’s clear from the evidence I’ve so masterfully presented that running is bad for you. And not just for the Gemma’s of the world. For all of us Ordinary Runners.

Yet, despite the injuries, regardless of the cost, ignoring the impact on our social life, we still do it. We plod, jog and run. We sign up for races and gather new bling. And we give up our weekend lie-ins.

Why? Because it feels good. The PBs, the endorphins, the social connection. We feel better for it, even when we’re injured. And, besides, once you get the bug, it’s pretty hard to shake it off.

So, yes. Running IS bad for you. Of that there’s no doubt. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Featured image by Massimo Sartiran on Unsplash