On The Run: Zen and the art of long distance running

Jay Kumar, running columnist for The Salem News. 

Ask runners why they train for road races — whether it’s a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon or beyond — and you’ll get a lot of different answers, mostly having to do with staying in shape, achieving new goals or losing weight.

But there’s another reason that sometimes gets overlooked: running is great for your mental as well as your physical health.

Many people dread their weekly long run (sometimes including me), but once I get out there, I’ve found it’s a great way to relax your mind for a while. You’ve got to pay attention to your surroundings, but you’re not bothered by work or family concerns (unless you run with your phone and make the mistake of answering it).

Obviously, this is different if you run with a friend or a group, but running solo can be a great experience. You’re able to focus on things that have been rattling around your head all week but that you haven’t been able to resolve. If you’re like me, you don’t have a lot of time (or you don’t make a lot of time) to sit quietly and think about things. You’re too busy being distracted by tasks or activities.

But when you’re on a run, you can actually devote some time to thinking. You might think about running itself, what you need to do to prepare for that upcoming race in a few months. It could be something as basic as making plans or a mental checklist of things you need to do after your run is over. Maybe you’ve got some thorny issues that have been bothering you lately; having an hour or more to contemplate them may provide you with some clarity. And if you write a column about running, you may come up with a few ideas while on the road.

Many runners like to distract themselves from the pain or drudgery of a long run with music or a podcast. I especially find this useful early in the run, before I get into a good rhythm. But even while listening to something, I find I often drift off to thinking about things that are really important to me. It’s often helpful to hash them out in my head, even if nothing gets resolved.

It might take some time for runners to be able to do this effectively. Newer runners need to get accustomed to being aware of traffic, other runners, animals or potential problems such as black ice, puddles or potholes. And if you’re the type of person who gets lost in their own thoughts, it’s a good idea to not do that while you’re also running, just because you might not pay as much attention to what you’re doing. But once you get the hang of it, a long run is an excellent time to let your mind wander while your body is building endurance.

Marathon training often requires runners to go out for three hours or more, which means there’s plenty of time to get some serious thinking done. And if you’re running for that long, you’re probably thinking about a lot of different things over the course of the run.

There’s a lot of talk about the so-called runner’s high, an endorphin boost that runners say they get after a good run. I’d argue that you can also experience a mental boost, which is yet another great thing about running.

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Starts and stops:

After years of organizing road race series in the area, Doug Bollen says there will be no North Shore Running Series in 2020. He attributed the decision to declining race numbers over the last few years and a lack of interest among runners to complete several races to receive a commemorative jacket. Bollen said he will continue to direct the Bridge and Back 10K and Wild Turkey 5-Miler events in Salem this year.

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An online running institution is no more. After 25 years of archiving road race results, CoolRunning.com has been shut down by its owner, ACTIVE Network. The site, which was used by many runners as a reference to check prior race results, has been replaced by the ACTIVE Results site (https://resultscui.active.com/), which tracks current results.

“While still functional in 2020, the Cool Running’s platform was no longer compliant with data laws in the United States and abroad,” according to an FAQ on the new site. “The legacy infrastructure brought up potential risks that we did not want to leave exposed on the web. We believe that we can provide users with a better, easier-to-use interface with ACTIVE Results for endurance operators. For these reasons, we took the site offline.”

ACTIVE says it could not migrate historical results to the new site, but encouraged users to send requests for specific race results.

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On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to jay.kumar@gmail.com.

 

UPCOMING RACES

Sunday, Feb. 16

Notch Sunday Meters for Liters, Notch Brewing, 283R Derby St., Salem, 11:30 a.m. Free group 5K or 10K run from the brewery. Beer and pretzels provided to runners after the run. Runners who complete 10 runs (aka 50,000 meters) will receive Notch swag.

The Rhino Run Club, Old Planters Brewing, 232 Rantoul St., Beverly, 3:30 p.m. Free group run of 2.5 to 3.1 miles, starting and ending at the taproom. An informal run for runners of all abilities. Group meets at 3:30, plans to leave around 3:45.

Wednesday, Feb. 19

Danvers 5K Fun Run, meets at Panini Pizzeria, 11 Maple St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Run starts and finishes at the corner of Elm and Page streets, near the Danvers Fresh Market Place. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Meters for Liters, Notch Brewing, 283R Derby St., Salem, 6:30 p.m. Free group 5K run from the brewery. Beer and pretzels provided to runners after the run. Runners who complete 10 runs (aka 50,000 meters) will receive Notch swag.

Thursday, Feb. 20

Gentile Run Club, ABV: 3.1, 59 Park St., Beverly, 6:30 p.m. Free weekly 5K run from the Gentile taproom through Beverly and back.

Weekly 5K from True North Ale, 116 County Road, Ipswich, 5:30 p.m. Free, weekly timed 5K from the brewery. Visit https://www.truenorthales.com/pages/thirsty-thursday-brewery-run for more information.

Sunday, Feb. 23

Notch Sunday Meters for Liters, Notch Brewing, 283R Derby St., Salem, 11:30 a.m. Free group 5K or 10K run from the brewery. Beer and pretzels provided to runners after the run. Runners who complete 10 runs (aka 50,000 meters) will receive Notch swag.

The Rhino Run Club, Old Planters Brewing, 232 Rantoul St., Beverly, 3:30 p.m. Free group run of 2.5 to 3.1 miles, starting and ending at the taproom. An informal run for runners of all abilities. Group meets at 3:30, plans to leave around 3:45.

Wednesday, Feb. 26

Danvers 5K Fun Run, meets at Panini Pizzeria, 11 Maple St., Danvers, 7 p.m. Run starts and finishes at the corner of Elm and Page streets, near the Danvers Fresh Market Place. Free, timed run. All welcome. These events are part of a weekly 52-race series. E-mail adam@danvers5k.com.

Meters for Liters, Notch Brewing, 283R Derby St., Salem, 6:30 p.m. Free group 5K run from the brewery. Beer and pretzels provided to runners after the run. Runners who complete 10 runs (aka 50,000 meters) will receive Notch swag.

Thursday, Feb. 27

Gentile Run Club, ABV: 3.1, 59 Park St., Beverly, 6:30 p.m. Free weekly 5K run from the Gentile taproom through Beverly and back.

Weekly 5K from True North Ale, 116 County Road, Ipswich, 5:30 p.m. Free, weekly timed 5K from the brewery. Visit https://www.truenorthales.com/pages/thirsty-thursday-brewery-run for more information.

 

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