How to love running

In June 2021, I ran an ultra-marathon – 50km in 6 hours and 36 minutes. 

Not an impressive time, but I finished. I also didn’t suffer a single injury, and raised some money for charity as an added bonus. 

Most importantly, while training for the ultra, I fell in love with running. For the first time in my life, I truly looked forward to exercising. And I found a way to keep my mental and physical health in order, without the need for fancy equipment or training partners. 

Here are my thoughts on how you can do the same. 

*Disclaimer – I am not a running coach, or a fitness expert. I’m just a guy who loves to run.*

How I came to love running

It was the winter of 2020/21. Thanks to Covid, the UK had been on lockdown for almost a year. I’d been backpacking in South America when the virus took hold. I cut the trip short, moving home to the Loch Lomond National Park, Scotland. 

This was a difficult time in everyone’s lives. We were separated from friends and family, hiding from a virus we didn’t understand, ordered by the law to stay indoors. 

Through boredom and a lack of options to exercise (the gyms were closed), I started to run. I didn’t run far – at first only a few kilometres, valuing consistency over intensity – and soon found myself running most days. 

This was a first. I’d never been a person who exercised consistently. Fitness regimes had come and gone, none sticking for more than a few weeks. 

As the weeks turned into months, running became the foundation of my mental and physical health. It felt like something I had control over while the world was in crisis, and the time I had outdoors, exercising, was like hitting a reset button on my mind and body. Tension, frustration and stress melted away, replaced by calm, focus, and a deep feeling of wellbeing. 

Running was my meditation; a way to exit my comfort zone and explore parts of my mind I didn’t often experience.

Running was, and never will be, easy. But I realised that the beauty of running is in the struggle. The pain and suffering create the joy and pleasure. Once I understood this dichotomy – that the suffering had meaning – I came to love running. 

How to love running

Running is a terrible experience for so many people. If when you think of running, it’s painful, meaningless, boring and difficult – you’re never going to do it consistently. 

If, however, you can relate to running as a pleasure – fun, calming, meditative and liberating –  the chances of you becoming a runner skyrocket. 

So, here are 9 ways to love running. 

Slow down.

I’ve seen the same pattern a hundred times: someone wants to get in shape, they buy a pair of running shoes, they head out on their first run, go way too fast, gas, feel like they’re going to throw up, pull a muscle then never run again.

Slow. The. Fuck. Down. Walk when you feel tired. Stop to take in a beautiful view. Take 10 minutes to sit on a nice bench. Chat to the friend you bump into. Take a photo of the beautiful flower at the side of the path. It’s not a race. And nobody’s judging you for taking it slow. You’ve made it off the couch and you’re running. That’s a win. Showing up is by far the hardest part.

So, at least to begin with, take it easy, and take it slow. You’ll get sunlight in your eyes, fresh air in your lungs, and release a cocktail of fantastic hormones, regardless of whether you’re padding or sprinting.

Slow down. Smell the roses.

Listen to something you enjoy.

A run is a block of YOU time. So use it to listen to a podcast you love, an album of your favourite artist, or an audiobook you’ve been meaning to read. 

When I was training for the ultra-marathon, I listened to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, the Joe Rogan podcast, Tim Ferriss, and The Rolling Stones Magazine Top 500 songs of all time playlist. It was class! I learned about all sorts of cool subjects and discovered songs I’ve listened to regularly since. 

When you’re going for a run, download something you’ll enjoy and relax into some uninterrupted you-time. It makes the whole experience far more pleasurable. 

Run to a specific location.

That might be a viewpoint over a city, the top of a hill, a cool tree – it doesn’t matter. Running TO something more rewarding than just running aimlessly.

The featured image of this blog post is from the top of a hill called Craigmore, behind Aberfoyle. It became my regular workout, especially in the months leading up to the ultra. After 45 minutes of hard climbing, I was rewarded with a view over Loch Ard and Ben Lomond. I’d take a seat, crack out my fruit and water, and take in the magnificent scene. The payoff was huge.

Set a location you want to run to, ideally with some kind of psychological payoff. Then on the next run, try to run there a little faster. Then the next time… you get the idea.

A photo of Ben Lomond and Loch Ard taken from the top of Craigmore.

Read Born to Run

Born to Run completely changed what I understood the human body to be capable of. I realised I was in possession of the greatest long-distance running machine on the planet. Humans have evolved for millions of years to become persistence hunters, able to run almost any animal to exhaustion.

Born to Run is written by a journalist called Christopher MacDougal who documented a race between some of the best ultra-runners in the US, and a hunter-gatherer tribe called the Tarahumara. The Tarahumara live in the mountains of Mexico, and are known as some of the greatest runners on the planet. They have been recorded running distances of over 400km, in rubber homemade shoes, without the help of smartwatches, nutritionists or energy gels.

These people don’t just love running, it is intrinsic to their survival. They run every day, from when they’re children into their old age. MacDougal tells the story of a race between the Tarahumara and modern ultra runners, whilst painting the picture of how human beings came to be such incredible distance runners.

Read Born to Run. You’ll never see the world, or your body in the same way again.

Ditch the trainers

Your body did not evolve to run in thick-heeled shoes. Humans have been running barefoot for hundreds of thousands of years, and your body has evolved intricate engineering solutions to make this as efficient as possible.

Then Nike came along…

Around 50% of runners experience an injury each year. This shouldn’t be. Do you think half of a tribe of hunter-gatherers would be injured every year? Not a chance. We would never have survived as a species.

When Nike brought out the Airmax, they changed a human movement hundreds of thousands of years old. Instead of landing on the ball of the foot, runners started heel-striking. This sends the impact into your knees, hips and lower back, instead of being cushioned by your foot and leg muscles. Imagine taking the suspension out of a car then driving it on cobblestones – it would only be a matter of time before something broke. 

It’s not safe to run in heavily-cushioned trainers. You will pick up an injury unnecessarily. Grab a pair of barefoot shoes and start running in them – you’ll save yourself months of pain. 

(*Please note, it takes a while for your body to get used to running in barefoot shoes. If you go too hard too fast, you risk developing plantar fasciitis or injuring ligaments. Shoes are like a cast around our feet, making muscles atrophy over time. Go easy to begin with and build from there.)

My barefoots. They cost £40 off of Amazon. I’ve run in them for years now and they’re still going strong.

Bring food and water

Bring an apple and a bottle of water in a backpack. This one took me a while to crack, but when I did it made the whole experience better. When I was on a long run, I’d become fatigued and assume I was running out of gas. However, I soon realised it wasn’t my muscles failing, instead, I was either dehydrated or my blood sugar was low.

Once I started taking water and fruit on runs, I could go much further, faster. 

It might sound simple but it’s an easy one to forget. Stay fueled and hydrated. 

Treadmills are lame.

When my brother lived in Rio, he used to run along Copacabana beach. The sun would be shining, the ocean shimmering and tanned, beautiful Brazillians would be having fun in the waves. But when he would pass by gyms, he would see people inside, staring at a wall, padding away on a running machine. LUNACY!

Even in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, perfect for running, people STILL choose to run on a treadmill. I can’t think of anything more boring. I don’t even think it counts as running – you just lift your feet as the treadmill moves below you.

Get off the treadmill and get outside. Don’t give me weather as an excuse either. I started training for the ultra in January in Scotland. It was dark and 4pm and often pissed rain or snowed. Invest in some waterproofs and get outside. Running is not supposed to be done on a treadmill.

Create a routine

Grease the groove. It should take as little thought as possible to get out there. Keep your headphones, armband, running shoes and shorts in the same place. Run at the same time every day.

If running is a habit, and there’s as little friction between you and getting out as possible, you’re far more likely to make it stick.

Build a routine around your running practice and you’ll find it much easier to stick to.

Download Strava

Strava is a free running app which tracks your pace, distance and time. But more importantly, it serves as a fitness social media. You can choose whether to post your run, then friends can leave comments and give you kudos (likes).

It’s an incredibly positive community. You’ll be spurred on by your friends encouragement, and seeing others out chasing their goals is inspiring.

Strava is a powerful incentive to run, and completely free.


These 9 tools were huge in my journey to becoming someone who loves running. It’s something I’m massively grateful to have in my life, and I’m certain anyone reading this can come to love running too. 

Thanks for reading, and godspeed. 

Ross

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2 thoughts on “How to love running

  1. Good blog. I agree with almost all but would say one thing: earphones aren’t essential. Listening to podcasts or music can be beneficial and enjoyable but there are also times when being without is better. I do both and sometimes having nothing in my ears is better. I fall into a place where I hear and feel the hypnotic sound of my breathing and this is meditative. Enjoy your running journey

    Like

    1. Thanks Johnny,

      I completely agree. I often run with just my thoughts. It’s a great time to process life.

      The idea of the post is to help people who don’t like running to enjoy it. Music and podcasts are useful for that.

      Appreciate you taking the time to read my writing, and enjoy your journey too.

      Ross

      Like

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