What I Love About Running by Dylan Roche
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What I Love About Running – Dylan Roche

I often tell people that so much of who I am as a person is influenced by my love for running. Therefore, it’s a little funny that I never intended or set out to be a runner.

I know some people start that way — they devise training programs or set goals or register for a neighborhood 5K to keep themselves motivated. Those people will probably hate me for saying that I never intended to be a runner. But I didn’t.

That First 3-Miler…

When I started, I was just looking for escapism. I was 18 years old and starting my freshman year at the local community college—all my friends had left town to attend college elsewhere, and I felt all alone with no sense of direction. I was out of shape. I was frustrated. I didn’t have any clear goals. I just knew I wanted my life to be completely different.

So when I got home from my first day of class, I dug into the back of my closet to find a pair of gym shorts and running shoes I had never worn. I went out and ran three miles fueled by the pure adrenaline that all those negative feelings stirred up in me. When I got home, I collapsed on the front lawn, dripping with sweat and gasping for breath.

As wiped out as I was, it felt good!

How Running Helped Me Grow…

What felt even better, however, was the way I saw running quickly change my life. Having it as part of my routine helped me plan out my day. While I was out running, I was able to think through everything that was on my mind. I even found that I was eating better because I wanted to fuel my body to perform the best it could.

I learned to push myself and quickly went from running three miles to doing five, seven, even ten miles at a time. In my first year as a runner, I dropped about 40 pounds. I started venturing out of my shell and feeling more confident, taking more pride in the way I conducted myself, and taking risks that I wouldn’t have taken before because I felt a certain sense of invulnerability.

In that first year, I started applying to four-year colleges and started outlining the manuscript for my first novel. I credit the discipline I learned from running every day (and the sense of accomplishment I got from it) in helping me stay focused on those kinds of goals.

Since then, running has carried me through some turbulent times in life: when I went away to college, when I got my first job, as I navigated the social difficulties of young adulthood, even when I left my full-time job to start my own freelance business. Running was what encouraged me. It was what made me believe in myself.

Dylan Roche after running the Atlantic City Marathon
Author Dylan Roche after the Atlantic City Marathon

Lessons From Running…

At 33, I’m now averaging 100 miles a week. I do my long runs in the morning, usually between 12 and 15 miles, so that I’m energized for the day. If I need to get my blood flowing and my mind clear after a long day of work, I’ll sometimes go out again in the evening for a short three- or four-miler.

People often ask why I run so much, but the truth is that it just makes me feel good — physically, mentally, and emotionally. There’s still that sense of accomplishment I get from it, that sense of invulnerability and confidence that I felt when I was first starting to gain strength and overcome those mental blocks I had in the beginning of my training. But those are so engrained in me by this point that they don’t feel new and fresh the way they used to.

Instead, there are other lessons I find myself learning each week, even after being a runner for 15 years. In short, running is basically one big metaphor for life: You have to work hard. You’re the only one holding yourself back (or pushing yourself forward). There will always be somebody faster or slower than you, so you need to stop comparing yourself to others. You’ll find time for what you make a priority, and you won’t accomplish anything unless you actually put effort into it. There will be days when you don’t feel like running (just like there are days when you don’t feel like going to work, or taking on a volunteer project, or being selfless in a relationship), but if you commit to it and stop making excuses, you’ll feel so much better afterward.

 

Ultimately, Just Have Fun…

If there ever comes a day that running stops being fun, I will give it up. But the reality is that despite all the ways it has helped me grow and learn, the reason I stick with it is because it’s two hours every day that I don’t have to worry about anything except putting one foot in front of the other and breathing in deeply.

It’s also led me to plenty of adventures I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve done marathons and obstacle challenges, I’ve participated in 5Ks for charities, I’ve met some cool people and collected some cool souvenirs. These experiences have definitely been cool perks!

 

My Advice for Runners…

I hear so many people say, “I wish I could be a runner, but I just hate it so much!”

The truth is not everyone has to run. Really! There are plenty of other workouts you can do, and there’s no sense in forcing yourself to stick with something you don’t enjoy. I’m not a fan of cycling, so I don’t do it. But for the people who love cycling, it’s awesome.

If you really want to run, however, I say stop putting so much pressure on yourself. Sure, you want to maintain a certain level of determination so that you don’t quit. But don’t beat yourself up if your first few runs are painful. Don’t be afraid of going slow until you’re able to go fast. Stop thinking there’s a right way to run. Just lace up your shoes, put on a good playlist, and enjoy your surroundings.

Running isn’t easy, but that’s what’s so great about it. We can’t be afraid of doing something that’s hard — instead of being afraid, we need to appreciate it. Because being challenged is what helps us change. And that’s why I love running.

 

Dylan Roche

Dylan Roche

is an Annapolis-based writer and marathon runner. As a journalist focused on everything from fitness to arts and culture, he has written for a variety of publications, including Livestrong, What’s Up Annapolis, OurHealth Virginia, UpstART and Chesapeake Family Life. His first novel, “The Purple Bird,” came out in 2019. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @DylanIsWriting

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