Why Do You Run? A Running Nerd Confesses

running, reasons to run

Why do you run? (Photo: Sgt. Jimmy D. Shea/US Marine Corps)

Happy National Running Day, everyone! It’s the 5th anniversary of the event, and I’m proud to say I’ve been a runner for every one of them.

Part of the National Running Day campaign allows runners to make an “I Run…” badge. It can be any reason you run, a place you run anything. This year, my badge says, “I Run Because I Can!” There was a decade of my life where running was so painful that I avoided it by any means possible. You can read about that here.

Sadly, I won’t be running today. I fell off a horse on Sunday—more to come on that in another post—and landed on my hip. It’s pretty sore and I’m going to get an x-ray just to be sure everything is alright. I don’t want to run and potentially make it worse. Being injured reminds me to appreciate every day that I can run.

National Running, Day, free events


So in honor of National Running Day, I thought I’d share the top 10 reasons why I run. I first came up with this list in 2010 and it’s still true. I’ve also updated it a bit for this year.

So here goes. Here are the top 10 reasons I run, in no particular order.

I run because…

1). I love it. Running makes me happy. I enjoy running. And the times that I don’t, well, I remind myself how good it is for me, which leads me to the next reason…

running, hot dogs

Karla pigs out at Portillo’s Hot Dogs in Chicago after running a marathon. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

2). My doctor told me to. Actually two different doctors in two different cities in two different decades. Both of them are orthopedic surgeons who specialize in knees—I have arthritis in one knee and the remnants of a bone tumor below the other. Why did they tell me to run? It’s good for my bones, it’s good for my heart, it’s good for my lungs, it’s good for my muscles, it’s good for my joints, it’s good for my metabolism, it’s good for my mind. In other words, it’s good for my health and it’s good for me. So when those naysayers tell you you’ll ruin your knees by running, you can refer them to either of my doctors.

3). I love to eat. Now that my age starts with a “3,” I’ve actually noticed my metabolism slowing down. Gasp. Thank goodness I run. Instead of having to eat like a bird, I still get to eat like a runner. Yum.

4). It gives me energy. Runner Karla has a lot more pep than non-runner Karla. And I generally have more energy on the days that I run versus the days that I do not.

running, runners high

High on life after a beach front run in Tonga. (Photo: Phil Hospod)

5). Running makes me feel good about myself. It’s kind of like getting a hug from my mom. Running makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It makes me feel good about the way I look, and it makes me feel good about who I am. Why? I don’t really know. It just does. It’s magical that way.

6). I think clearly while I’m running. Whether I’ve got a problem to solve, need to blow off steam, want to meditate, or organize my day, I always seem to do it well while I’m running. Things just come together when I’m alone in my thoughts away from my computer, my phone, and all the other distractions of life. Yes, sometimes I concentrate just on my running—charging the hill, listening to my breath, relaxing my shoulders. But other times, I let my mind wander wherever it needs to.

running, Snow White

Making like Snow White. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

7). I am high on life. As Donovan once sang, “The natural high is the best high in the world.” And the runner’s high is like happy juice. Honestly, on some runs my thoughts mirror what I imagine Snow White’s to be like: “Oh, what lovely flowers! Oh, what an adorable little bird! Oh, how crisp the air is!” It makes me feel like a kid again, back in the days when just about everything was exciting. That’s probably why runDisney is so appealing to me and so many other runners. It melds the physical exertion of racing and the pure joy of life, capturing what it feels like to be a kid again.

8). I like being on a team. Remember playing sports as a kid? Half the fun was the sport itself, but the other half was hanging around with other kids. Now that we’re adults and we’re not in PE class or on varsity teams, we don’t always get that sense of camaraderie. But running with friends, or a club, or a team gives me a community where I’m encouraged and welcomed and teased and challenged—where I enjoy true fellowship. You can even extend that to all the socializing runners do on our blogs, Twitter, Facebook and all the other online channels. We’re part of a large community of like-minded folks. It’s a community I really enjoy.

running, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

I love that running lets me be goal oriented. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)

9). I’m a goal-oriented person. Running gives me a ready-made framework for setting and achieving goals, whether it’s nabbing a PR, tackling a new distance, or just upping my mileage. I love the structure that training provides, jotting down notes nerdily in my training journal and geeking out over my online data.

10). I run because I can. There were many years when I couldn’t run. There are many people who can’t. Being able to run is a gift, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted. I’m thankful to be able to run, so I run as a celebration of the fact that I can.

Those are just a few of the reasons I run. But I’d like to hear from you. Why do you run?

Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runners’ show about running. She has finished six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla at RunKarlaRun.com, The Washington Times Communities, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


06 2013

18 Comments Add Yours ↓

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  1. 1

    I’m so sorry about the falling off the horse, I hope you are okay and nothing too serious! I’ll dedicate one of my miles to you tonight for sure! I love all your reasons, you really are in inspiration!
    Laura recently posted..Run your own lifeMy Profile

  2. 3

    Hope this comment isn’t too long but I couldn’t help but copy these two reasons from a post I did a while back about why I run. (BTW as a former competitive and recreational rider…I know what you are feeling right now!)

    – To listen to music uninterrupted. Once upon a time I spent a significant amount of time listening to music. I even have vague memories of going to concerts on a regular basis. Then we had kids. It is now pretty much impossible to listen to a favourite song all the way through without being asked a question or having to calmly and wisely solve a sibling conflict. O.K, the reality is I cant hear the song over my yelling at the kids to solve the problem quickly or they will be in trouble. But when I run I stick in my ear buds and enjoy my music. Sometimes you will even catch me running and singing out loud. Not such a bad thing when I am running in my rural area. The cows and wild turkeys seem willing to tolerate my singing. I have, however, caught myself running and singing out loud in suburbia. It was the time that I was singing Ed Sheerans Ill Be Drunk Again out loud that I realized I should be a little more careful!
    – To get away from my kids. Sorry but somebody has to say it. If you look at any races, there are a large number of women participating, in fact the women often out number the men. I have no scientific proof, but it seems to me that once women have done the pregnancy thing, the nursing thing, the diapers and sleepless nights, the toddler music and gymnastic classes (need I go on?), they are ready for something that does not involve their children. Something that can be done quickly and without a huge investment. Of course nobody warns them (or nobody warned me anyways) that once you reach one goal, say a 5k race, you will be addicted and the only thing to do is to keep readjusting your goals. Suddenly your long runs require more than 30 minutes. You find yourself saying crazy things like, I wont be long, should be back in about 2 hours. You will go shopping for clothes for work and instead come home with piles of black spandex pants and neon shirts with reflective stripes. You will know you have really gone over the edge when you want to start wearing these clothes at work. But I digress
    Kristi Raz recently posted..Ottawa Race WeekendMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Kristi, your comment made me laugh out loud! I LOVE your honesty. I don’t have kids, but I know many a mom who feels the same way (and I know how exhuasting watching my niece and nephew is)! I’ve heard it from dads in the past too–that they run just to get some alone time. And yes, becoming a runner is a slippery slope to Crazy Town! Re: falling from a horse, the last time I fell I was 8 or 9 years old. I don’t remember it hurting this much! I don’t even remember getting injured! Must be my age showing…sigh.
      Karla recently posted..Why Do You Run? A Running Nerd ConfessesMy Profile

      • 5

        Yep, the older you are the harder you fall :( I can’t count the number of times I have come off a horse. The most memorable one though was when I came off at a show held at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police grounds in Ottawa. If you have to come off a horse you might as well do it where you have handsome Mounties in full uniform come to your rescue!
        Hope you recover soon!
        Kristi Raz recently posted..Ottawa Race WeekendMy Profile

  3. Twins Run #

    Great post! :-)

  4. 8

    Numbers 3, 4, 9 and 10 sum up the vast majority of why I run (I do like eating, too, but I was a biker before a runner, so it wasn’t a new thing) — but I’ll add on that I’m a lot NICER when I’ve been running than when I haven’t been.
    Sadye recently posted..Yawning at milestonesMy Profile

  5. 10

    Love your reasons!! #3 is definitely me – I like to say I run so I can eat pizza and drink chocolate milk. And #10 really strikes a chord with me. I would never say I liked running, but I knew it was good for me and I loved the camaraderie of running races and of course the bling, but all that changed when I tore my MCL and couldn’t run for a year. I then realized how much running had become an outlet for me. I try not to take running for granted anymore.
    Emily recently posted..Wish I Was Wednesday #33My Profile

  6. 12

    I run for those reasons too. Because I can, because it keeps me healthy, because I love chocolate too much… I view it as my time to turn on the music and tune out reality for the time I’m sweating. It’s a great way to blow off steam when I get stressed.
    Lesley recently posted..Coping With an InjuryMy Profile

  7. 14

    “Running makes me feel good about myself. Its kind of like getting a hug from my mom. Running makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. It makes me feel good about the way I look, and it makes me feel good about who I am. Why? I dont really know. It just does. Its magical that way.”

    Karla, I love this. (And the rest of it as well.)

    I’m really sorry to hear about your fall, that’s such a bummer. Does it change your racing plans? I

    I actually did run on National Running Day and landed in a pothole–and then today at the doctor’s. So I want be running for a while…luckily it’s sprain, not fracture, but boy am I conscious of reason #3.

    • Karla Bruning

      Oh no, Diann! Hope you’re on the mend soon! Stupid potholes. Aiya. I’m hoping the fall won’t change my racing plans. I’ll know better once I go to the doctor–June 17. Earliest appointment I could get after calling 10 docs! Oh, to live in NYC :)
      Karla recently posted..Disney Princess Half Marathon Registration & NewsMy Profile

  8. 16

    All great reasons! Hope the hip injury is nothing serious — you should switch to rowing 😉 Not as far to fall.

    I run because I love racing, and racing sucks if you don’t run! Actually, coming up to my 35th year of the sport I find I’m enjoying the running and training more and more. I don’t need to race every week, as I did back in the ’80s. There are simple pleasures to be had out on the run and a journey to be enjoyed.

    BTW, wait until your age starts with a “4” or a “5” — also, my friend has osteoarthritis of both knees and is still (through management) able to run marathons and ultras. My knees are fine (touch wood)!
    Ewen recently posted..It’s Been A Long TimeMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Ewen, racing is a great reason to run! You race more than anyone I know. It’s inspiring! Every now and then I hop on the erg at the gym and am reminded what an amazing workout rowing is. Re: arthritis–so far I’ve been able to manage my arthritis very well. Too little running and it flares up. Too much running and it flares up. But like Goldilocks, there’s an amount that’s just right and keeps my knee humming quite nicely!
      Karla recently posted..Disney Princess Half Marathon Registration & NewsMy Profile

  9. 18

    Love this list! I can identify with just about all of your reasons, especially #9 since it’s really the challenge of working towards and accomplishing a goal that I think keeps me the most motivated. The feeling of “doing the impossible” (or what i thought was impossible for me!) and crossing the finish line really is worth every training mile.
    Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile