A blog by runners. For runners.

Runner’s column: When the excuses come, you must run

Running is hard enough, but staying committed to running is where the real test is.

Writer Rob Haneisen completing his first half marathon – the Wallis Sands Half Marathon in Rye, NH – in 2013.

I almost didn’t run tonight.

I had excuses that could have made sense.

On this night – Aug. 4, 2015 – my ride home from work took an extra 15 minutes, stretching way past an hour in the car, my head swimming with the question about running. I knew technically the region would still be in a severe thunderstorm watch during my run but a quick glance at the radar showed there was really only a minor threat of showers. The commute was extended because rubberneckers gawked at the snapped trees on the sides of the road in Bolton and Lancaster, Massachusetts. Big red oaks were cleaved of their large side limbs, a few were snapped near the base, and a large weeping willow stretched its tangled mass of dirt-caked roots skyward, ringed in a flap of torn up grass. The whole top of that tree flopped over a large berm in front of a farmhouse.

I had not run in five days, letting myself recover from a blistering hot 10K race run on a hilly course in 93 degrees. My next race was still three weeks off and it was only a 5K. I was winding down from running four half marathons in the spring and early summer and preparing to start gearing up for fall half marathons.

The cold six-pack of beer sweating on my front seat would be tempting to crack into when I returned home. I could have dinner before it was full dark, casually visit with my wife and son.

But there was tension at the back of my neck and a pre-guilty feeling in my gut, that pang of anxiety that warns you when you are about to do something you’ll regret, no matter how small. It wouldn’t budge.

And honestly, I’d feel like a bit of a fraud writing this now if I didn’t run tonight. Running is hard enough, but staying committed to running is where the real test is.

So I pushed aside the excuses, strapped on my Newton trail shoes, and ran a hard, 3.5-mile hilly route and thought about what to say when it comes to sticking with running.

You buy some shoes in a color you never thought you’d be caught dead wearing, slug some water, and head out the door on your first run and think – with the resolve you likely had before – that this time you’ll stick to it. Starting running is easy. Staying with it is hard. It can’t be a habit. It’s not something you do for fun and though the addictive qualities of those endorphins rushing in your head for that runner’s high give you some gratification, it is fleeting. You need a real reason to run, a goal that will see you through the winter days when the windchill goes below zero, and in summer when even your sweat-wicking clothes become cling-wrap. You need a goal to get you through an injury – yes, you’ll get hurt at some point. You need a motivation to drag you out of bed early in the morning and to give you the discipline to look at food and drink as fuel and not a treat to be overindulged. The answer to your “why running?” question needs the kind of depth that a few shovelfuls of excuses won’t fill on a muggy, stormy night.

I started running four years ago as a 40-year-old with floundering health and a mental outlook that veered toward negative and depressive. The grief of my youngest brother’s suicide was still unresolved and I wanted a change. Not a fix-it – a change. My running began with pushing my son in a jogging stroller and I enjoyed the way he laughed and wanted me to go faster. I felt foolish. I tried running when I was younger and always quit after a few attempts at a couple miles, my knees asking me why exactly I was turning into a masochist.

This time, as I ran more, something changed in me, something grew instead of withering.

My goals with running were all about becoming healthier (mentally and physically), and seeing what I was capable of in races. I know I will never win a race but I’ll occasionally place in my age group as an overachieving middle-of-the-packer. Competition fuels my performance and training but the goal is to keep myself out of that place I was in just before I started running.

This is my running story, but understand this story is not about me – it is about you. Why do you continue to run or why are you thinking about starting?

Your story is the answer but if you need a few tips to keep you running, try these:

  1. Register for races. Competition can bring out the best in you and if not, the fear of failure is not the worst motivator in the world.
  2. Keep a photo of yourself before you started running to remind yourself where you started.
  3. On days when running is tough, think of people you know and love who can’t run. Consider yourself lucky and do it for them.
  4. Social media is a great way to hold yourself accountable with some healthy peer pressure. If you plan on running that night, post something that morning. You told the world you are running, so that means you must.
  5. Become part of something bigger. Running is a solo journey but it helps to have some company along the way. Join a running club, raise money for a cause through running, or sign up for an online community of runners where your progress is tracked and you are part of a team.

Written by Rob Haneisen