Humankind has known for centuries that running sucks, and yet we keep running—lacing up the ol’ stomperinos for an afternoon clip-clop in the park, as they say. For the longest time, I’ve had to assume that running—that is, voluntary running, not, like running from a pack of feral dogs—is a willful act of self-delusion: convincing yourself that you definitely like doing this thing that sucks ass, despite knowing, somewhere deep down in your heart, just how much ass it absolutely sucks.
A new survey published on Tuesday by the fitness-tracking app Strava left me absolutely flabbergasted to discover that, according to data collected by Strava, the vast majority of runners aren’t deluding themselves at all. The Why We Run survey, which collected data from 25,000 runners around the world, found that only eight percent of runners actually love running, while half of respondents said that they either hated running or, at best, “merely tolerate it.”
Why do these people continue to run even though they know they're just suffering through it? Lead author Blair Evans, Ph.D., attributed the decision to a combination of factors, including wanting to improve their physical or mental health and wanting to improve body image, suggesting that people are willing to put aside momentarily hating their lives if it potentially means a longer-term increase to their happiness.
“There’s a great realization that to exercise the body also helps to exercise the mind, which is a muscle that needs just as much looking after as the other muscles,” Simon Klima, Strava’s global marketing director, told Reuters.
Klima also said that maintaining an active running routine might give the runner in question a sense of consistency and stability—two things that are kind of hard to come by in this crumbling, horrible, no good, very bad world we call home right now. That still seems a little delusional, as far as reasons to run go, but if running, which sucks, helps dispel the ill feelings that come from the wider forces making life suck even worse, I can see the case for it at least a little better. Even if it remains fairly bewildering that all these people are choosing to do something they know they hate.
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