Make a Run for It

“Shadow, see how far I go. Step by step I’ll keep it up, I won’t slow, I gotta go”

The start of my most-streamed song always brings a lump to my throat. The song in question, The Runner by Foals, isn’t actually about running. Whilst I was obviously drawn by its title, the song revolves around the battles you have with yourself. You know the kind. That voice in your head that keeps telling you that “you can’t do this” and ““you’re too old/ weak/ stupid” etc.  I’m no stranger to these thoughts.

Singer Yannis Philippakis describes the song as “A call to find a sense of purpose and perseverance despite the odds and despite the troubles we may find inside or outside ourselves.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. 

You’ll find plenty of thoughts going through your mind during a run, and particularly a race. As things get tougher, you may start wondering if it’s worth continuing. Perhaps you should just give up? Maybe this isn’t for you after all? 

However, if you ignore the pleas to take the easy option, you’ll reap the rewards once you finish. 

In his brilliant book Fast 5K, coach Pete McGill describes the “spontaneous injuries” which occur pre-race. “As race day approaches, you suddenly become aware of some acute pain or injury. Your Achilles hurts or your back is tight. Hard training leads to minor aches and pains and race anxiety amplifies them in our minds”. This isn’t to say that you should ignore a pain or injury, but when the going gets a tough, our mind plays tricks on us. This is when we need to be mentally stronger.

A study of 14,000 people undertaken by Asics during the pandemic found that 82% of UK runners say running helps to clear their mind, and 78% feel saner and more in control as a result of running.


1- It helps your brain to cope better with stress

Running is an effective stress-reducing activity. It helps to clears the mind and stimulates the release of happy hormones (often described as the “runner’s high”). It’s a great way to let your mind relax and to take some time to organize your thoughts.

2- It helps you to sleep better

Assuming you don’t decide to run just before you go to bed, running can help you to get a much better quality of sleep. Not just because you might be exhausted. You may find it easier to fall asleep and sleep deeper.

3- It can improve your mood

When you run, you get this great increase in electrical activity in key areas of the brain that are essential for processing emotions. A recent study in Japan has shown that running for just ten minutes can increase your brain activity. It was discovered that even short running sessions improved the brain’s executive function. Creating enhancement of attention, memory, planning, organization, and impulse control. It was also shown to increase blood flow in the prefrontal cortex and create a better mood.

4- It can improve cognitive decline

Taking regular physical exercise has been proven over many case studies to be one of the best things that you can do to reduce your risk of suffering from cognitive issues.  A recent study found an association between light-intensity exercise and reduced risk of dementia in older adults.

5- It enhances your ability to focus

A better night’s sleep and improved mood should have a knock-on effect when it comes to your overall focus. Studies have shown that enhanced focus is particularly prevalent in those who started exercising regularly at an early age. So, there’s no better time than the present to get started!

If you conquer the battles you have in your mind when running, the obstacles you encounter in your daily life may seem that little bit easier to deal with.

And if you fall, you’ll know to get up and keep on running.


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