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A young woman in the foreground is running in a marathon followed by a group of people also competing. Everyone is breathing hard and concentrating on the road ahead.

Running for Mental Health

exercise healthy habits mental health May 24, 2023

By Vivian Blancarte, a CSUCI student.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was training for a marathon and would always post his run stats, sometimes running anywhere from 10-18 miles. I remember one day asking, “Why do you do that to yourself?” He simply replied, “Because I love it.” But what is there to love about putting your body through all that discomfort, I thought to myself.

I am not going to lie and say that I wasn’t intrigued. One day, after commenting on his most recent run, he challenged me to run 1 mile, just to see where I was fitness-wise. I accepted the challenge with a smirk only to find that I couldn’t even run 1 mile without stopping multiple times. I cramped up, I was huffing and puffing and finished my mile in almost 13 minutes. I was embarrassed to share my results, but he didn’t laugh. He encouraged me to keep trying to improve that time and I did just that.

I kept running. Days turned to weeks and weeks into months and before I knew it, I was running anywhere from 20-30 miles a week at a consistent pace of 9:30 a mile. I decided to take it a step further and ran my first half marathon only 3 months after taking on running. The natural thing to do next was sign up for a full marathon and so I did just that. I ran my first full marathon 9 months after I began my running journey. It was the same marathon my friend was training for the previous year. The sense of accomplishment that came from crossing each finish line was unmatched.

It has been a little over a year and running has given me so much. Not only am I physically healthier but I am more confident, and found that running has taken me places the old me would have never ventured out to. The old me would have never run in unfamiliar places and now I take my running shoes wherever I go. The old me would have social anxiety in crowded places and now I can confidently talk about running and its benefits to anyone and attend crowded races alone.

I would like to say that running gave me a sense of purpose and belonging. On the days when I feel anxious or stressed, I let my feet hit the pavement and my worries or fears disappear. Yes, running is hard! It doesn’t get easier; we only get better at it.