Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Jonathan Beverly
Running may or may not make you live longer. Who cares?
Last spring a Danish study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology provoked a small uproar by claiming that people who ran excessively (“strenuous joggers”) had the same mortality rate as those who didn’t exercise at all. While the study was shown to be inadequate—because the sample sizes were too small and it didn’t isolate why people died—I felt the appropriate reaction was, “So what?”
Whether or not running extends your life is irrelevant. We run not because it might make life longer, but because it makes life better—because we love how it makes us feel. And because we love it, we do it as much as our bodies allow. Forget moderation.
“Saints have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance,” wrote poet Anne Sexton.
If this is true for those who run on the roads and track, it is doubly true for trail runners. People don’t plunge into the wilderness, fly across mountain ridges, and zigzag down switchbacks to improve their heart health. Their motivation usually isn’t even to race better, something senior editor Erin Strout pointed out once in a discussion about trail training articles. “Trail runners don’t really train,” she said. “They just go run.”
We celebrate some of those poets of the trail with upcoming stories about women ultrarunners (May 13) and in an interview with legend like Ann Trasonm (May 25), who still holds records on courses like the Leadville Trail 100.
We explore exuberance further in an upcoming article (May 18) wondering whether the 100-mile is becoming the new marathon: a distance long enough that most cannot imagine covering it, ensuring that if you do, you will be labeled “crazy.” The fact that it is too far to be safe or sane is the whole point.
Even if you aren’t about to go 100 miles, if you’re a distance runner, you go long regularly, heading out for 90 minutes to 3 hours about once a week. In another display of excess, our story on maximizing long runs discusses upping the pace for a portion of them, or running them on consecutive days. These workouts probably won’t increase your life expectancy—but they can do wonders for your race times, as well as for your confidence and quality of life.
Few joys are as pure as a strong long run: stopping time for several hours, cutting through the day, doing one thing while the rest of the world twitters frenetically on its way. “By the time you get back, the world is different,” my wife said once after she returned from a 2-hour excursion in a local state park. Different outside, as the sun has moved and the world’s news has continued to unfold, and different inside, as you’ve calmed enough that you don’t mind if you missed the latest media buzz, and you know better who you are and what you are capable of accomplishing.
It’s true, with our passion comes the possibility of overdoing it. A period of staleness shows only that we need a change, not a break, and we can avoid most problems by following our heart rather than being slaves to a regimen.
People will continue to find ways that our obsession might be bad for us. But rather than argue, let’s just own our excess. Let’s be running hedonists, charging blissfully over miles and mountains. Running is bad for my health? I don’t care. Running is good for my life.