The Worst Part About Being a Distance Runner

Blisters? Early alarms? Ice baths? Fatigue? Monotony? Missing out on social events? The expensive running gadgets and gear? No, the worst part about running is all the work you have to put into injury prevention, or ‘prehab’ as Meb calls it.

When I was just running 3 miles a day, I literally just laced up and went out the door. When I got home, I just went onto whatever I had going on that day. I never worried about my hip mobility or activating my glutes. Never worried if my form was going to cause runners knee, didn’t think twice about whether my hips were misaligned. I didn’t worry about finding shoes with the right arch support. I never considered compression gear. I just ran, did strength training when I wanted and that was it.

Then I started running longer distances, and got my first running injury. That’s when I learned about hip alignment and doing workouts to strengthen your glutes in order to prevent knee injury. Then down the road I started having sore ankles and realized I should give compression gear a try. And then there’s the IT band pain, and the prehab involved in keeping that strong. I started having sore arches, and realized I had Accessory Navicular Syndrome. That led me on a quest to finding the right shoe (here are what I found to be the best running shoes for accessory navicular syndrome). And of course the literal pain in your butt- Piriformis syndrome-and learning what to do to prevent that from coming back.

Maybe some distance runners haven’t had to worry about all this. Maybe I’m one of those people whose body isn’t quite cut out for long distance. Or maybe I’ve just made too many beginner mistakes, and have had to learn the hard way how to train properly. Whatever the case, I miss the days when I just went for a run without doing any prehab before or after.

“Why don’t I just stick with shorter distances, if I dislike prehab so much”, you might ask. Because the feeling that comes from running long distance is worth the extra time researching and doing prehab work. When I go a few days without running (such as last week, while I recover from my last marathon) I begin missing it so much. I love that feeling that comes from running double digits. I love the fatigue. I love the mental exertion. I love that feeling of accomplishment. It’s my way of celebrating these amazing bodies we have been given.

God wants us to experience what our bodies are capable of. I love that line from Chariots of Fire, “When I run, I feel God’s joy.” I believe it brings a smile to Heavenly Fathers face, when we treat our bodies with love, and when we push our bodies and minds to achieve great things.

Running for hours at a time has brought me such peace, happiness, and comfort. Running makes me feel free.

There’s runners who experience multiple running injuries that sideline them for months at a time. You may wonder why they don’t just find a different athletic outlet. For some, running has become too invaluable. You can’t imagine life without it. You are no longer doing it to stay fit. You aren’t running so you can eat more food (although that is a nice bonus). You run because it has become part of you. As soon as you recover from the injury, you get back to running. And you do all the prehab necessary in order to keep you running injury free.

I enjoy other forms of cardio, such as biking. I haven’t swam in a year, but there was a time when I was really into that as well. Yet it always comes back to running.

I sometimes get annoyed with mobility, and strength, and activation. But I will keep doing it. Running is worth it. It has taught me lessons that can be applied in all aspects of life. It has taught me the power of perseverance, patience, grit, faith and gratitude.

Why do you love running long distance? What do you think is the worst part of being a distance runner?