When my boyfriend broke up with me unexpectedly in the spring of 2016, I needed to do something drastic to deal with my emotions. So I signed up to run the New Jersey Marathon a week before the race in an attempt to qualify for Boston. I believed that the validation of a BQ would help me feel better about the whole ordeal, and maybe even help him realize what he was giving up. But instead of feeling amazing, I crossed the finish line with more than 10 minutes to spare, only to feel emptier and lonelier than ever before, enlightened by a depressing realization: Running—fast or slow — wouldn’t make anyone love me.
Running has been my go-to way to deal with my emotions—happy or sad, good or bad, positive or dark—since training for my first marathon in college helped me cope with the unfortunate combination of heartbreak and general life ambiguity. Phrases like “Running is cheaper than therapy!” and “I run because punching people is frowned upon,” are routinely splashed on running-themed bumper stickers, social memes, and apparel, and reinforce the idea that running offers a healthy mental outlet. Most major fitness publications—Runner’s Worldincluded—have publicly celebrated the sport’s proven advantages as a unique form of therapy.
I’m not here to discredit running’s ability to help improve mental health. Studies show that running can boost your mood, reduce stress levels, help manage anxiety, and be as effective as taking antidepressants. I am skeptical, however, about the degree to which we’re praising the connection between our weekly mileage and our emotional wellbeing. And that’s probably because I’m a runner whose mental health requires more than miles can provide: I also routinely see a licensed therapist.
Read the full article on Runner’s World.