For the past two years, I have limited myself to running one long race a year, in the fall. I generally have used the warmer spring months to ease back into running, after a winter of hibernating (or cross training, as the case may be). The summer months, I have spent training for a longer half marathon. I have been content with this routine, until this year.

            This winter provided me little opportunity (and little motivation) to either run or cross train, leaving me out of shape and extremely antsy. Vacationing in Florida, two weeks ago, provided me the opportunity to run twice in the sunshine and warmth, and served as a disturbing reminder of how out of running shape I truly am. A week of sunshine, combined with the first hints of spring upon returning home to Vermont, convinced me that one race in the fall was going to neither whip my buttocks back into shape, nor appease the ants in my pants. Therefore, I decided to sign up for a spring half marathon.

            Vermont hosts maybe ten marathon races throughout the year. One of the half marathons (The Dandelion Run) begins not ten minutes from my house. I have avoided this race in the past because it takes place the second week of May. Depending on the severity of the winter, training can be challenging during the spring months in Vermont due to an abundance of lingering heavy wet snow, unpredictable temperature changes, and mud… lots of mud. This year, however, I vowed to ignore these factors and, with exactly ten weeks until race day, registered for the Dandelion Run.

            Yesterday, my first official day of training, dawned with gorgeous blue skies, and temperatures climbing to sixty degrees. Upon returning home from work, I immediately grabbed a bite to eat and rushed to change into my running clothes, anxious to participate in an endorphin-producing, vitamin D stimulating activity. After stretching and warming up, I turned up my iPod and hit the pavement with enthusiasm, only to be quickly reminded of why running and I have a love/hate, or hate/love, relationship.


            Because I run, people automatically assume that I love to run, or if not love it, like it. When the truth is, I despise the act of running. I cannot stand that no matter how hard I train, no matter how often or far I run, the act of running never gets easier. Every run is difficult, labor intensive.

I cannot stand the fact that every run hurts. I always feel out of shape when running. If my shoulders are not bothering me, then my lower back is. If my shins are not pinching with pain, then my knees are. 

I cannot stand the fact that no matter how hard I try to silence them; the voices in my head will not shut the hell up! My mind focuses on every painful twang, making pin pricks feel like dismemberments. The stresses of life, relationships, work, and motherhood buzz frantically in my head throughout my runs. Voices of self-doubt regarding my body’s ability to reach goals, or even complete a training run, scream in chaotic cacophony during my runs.

I cannot stand battling the elements; sloshing through rain and mud; feeling my lungs seize as they struggle to inhale thick humid air; transitioning from freezing cold at the beginning of a run, to unbearably hot and sweaty in the middle of a run, to feeling the sweat freeze on my body at the conclusion of a race.

All these things I hate and more!

I have to laugh at the looks of disbelief, confusion, and bafflement that cross people’s faces when I tell them I despise running. “And yet you run half marathons?” they ask in amazement. “Why?” The answer is simple: Though I hate to run, I love the results I get from running.

I have yet to find another activity that burns as many calories as quickly. It would take me an hour of walking to burn the same number of calories I burn in a twenty-minute run.  Furthermore, running builds muscle while also providing an excellent cardio workout. It kills two birds with one stone. Being a mother, and now a working mother, I need exceptional results in a short amount of time.

Running clears my head and relieves stress and anxiety. I inevitably begin and end every run with negative thoughts. However, within thirty minutes to an hour after a run, I feel my mind and body heave a sigh of relief. The stresses that life creates on a daily basis drain from both mind and body leaving me more at peace, more logical, and less emotionally charged.

Running gives me alone time. Mother, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, friend…fulfilling all these duties and more allows me very little time to connect with myself. Often times, they require more giving than receiving. Running allows me time to take care of those little parts of myself that need nurturing and attention.

Running allows me the opportunity to commune with nature. I am not an indoor person. Having been raised in sunny California, I spent the majority of my childhood outside, running, jumping, skipping, riding my bike, or playing sports with my brother. I am an outdoor person. However, the demands of the household, work, and a seemingly endless Vermont winter, often force me indoors and out of my element. Running allows me to get in touch with that piece of me that loves the outdoors.

            Running allows me to feel strong, beautiful, accomplished and confident. Like many women, I struggle with self-confidence. Images of perfection pervade our culture; images of too thin women with perfect hair, skin, abs, butts, thighs, and facial features. Though I know these images are often doctored and are not what they seem, I am not immune to the cultural ideal. When I run, I feel healthy, proud of my body and beautiful. I fall into bed after a long race feeling triumphant because though I have hated every minute of the journey, the struggle is always worth the destination.

            As I curse my way through my training runs for my upcoming half marathon, I will fight to remember all those things I love about running. And as I look around at those running the race next to me, I will wonder, “Do they love this, or hate it?” I ask you, “Do you love or hate running? Why?”

Written by: Alyssa Coupe