Why I operate: it’s not fairly or elegant, but it’s the best route to clear your head

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Running actually only requires a good pair of shoes to be done right and if you do it long enough and hard enough, it lets you forget whats bothering you

Im not very good at running, even though I do it a lot. For the last three months, Ive been training to run a marathon under four hours. I have no idea of I can do it, Ive tried several times before. But that doesnt prevent me from dragging my 35 -year-old, 140 -pound body up and out the door six mornings a week to try.

Running has been described as a compulsion, and perhaps it is. But aside from lost toenails, chafing in delicate spots, blisters and an from time to time unseemly craving, I dont think its a bad one. Im not alone either. According to Running USA, 18,750, 000 people completed races in 2014. Thats not just a leaping but a rocket launching from 1990, when that number was under five million.

But why? Why is this activity, where you hurl yourself forward and set anything not strapped or compressed down jiggling, so popular? On its most basic level, running is practical and inexpensive. Its a simple, compact exercising that you can take almost anywhere, one that burns a lot of calories, and only really requires a good pair of shoes to be done right. But its more than that. Its mental windshield wiping an activity where, if you run long enough, far enough and hard enough, clears the decks and lets you forget whats been bothering you.

In 2008, a lot of people needed to clear their intellects. At the height of the recession, workings popularity exploded. Philadelphias Broad Street 10 -mile run , now the sixth biggest race in the country, watched a 3,000 -person registration jump between 2007 and 2008. Between 2008 and 2013, the race grew 67%. The race director theorized that financial distress combined with the desire to have control over one thing anything led people to sign up in droves. That same anxiety is once again in the air, thanks to election campaign season.

Running is a community too, a worldwide one speaking the same language. In the last 10 years, Ive ran through grief, the near-collapse of my business and the demise of a relationship I guessed would aim in marriage by running. In those deepest, darkest hours, I could run, and I could talk with other athletes about running anything other than what was really bothering me even if those operates felt more like stroll through sludge, feet sticking to the floor.

Running is not a perfect sport. Its rarely fairly, tidy or even safe: Ive had cigarette butts thrown at me, vulgar commentaries too and a woman pushing a stroller once gave me the finger. Im often dodging vehicles, bikes, dogs, potholes and untethered toddlers. Ive run in weather so hot that sweat rolled down my legs into my shoes, which then squished with each step, and so cold it brought my fingers to the brink of frostbite. Ive had races transgress my spirit, virtually break my foot, and in the case of the 2014 New York City Marathon left me on the edge of vomiting for 48 hours after.

But still, I step outside and I run.

Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan talks of the Church of the Sunday Long Run. Im not so much a lapsed Catholic as someone who was flung out of her pew by homilies on the dangers of birth control and gay marriage, delivered by representatives of an institution still playing dumb about its abominable deeds. Still, Id missed that time of mental quiet, of reflection, and procured it again by being a part of this community that doesnt judge and only cheers on, whether its liking another athletes Facebook post about a hard workout, or at finish line where the achievements of the last are celebrated as much as those of the first.

And so, I run six days a week, run until my shirt clings to my body with sweat and legs shudder. But I also make sure to say hello to the other athletes along the way.

I dont know if Ill reached my marathon aim. Im sticking to my develop, but an errant pothole or hot weather race day can aim that dreaming before it actually starts. In a lot of ways, its wont matter. Ive gained much better in the work and solace its taken me to get there.

Jen A Miller is author of Running: A Love Story .

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