I was on the phone with my mother (who is not a runner. In fact, I can't say that I've ever seen her run) today when she told me that I shouldn't run so much. (I don't think I run that much. Only about 40-50 miles/week which is about half of what a competitive runner logs. It only sounds like alot to non-runners because they run zero miles/week.) She says that running is "hard on your body." Respectfully, I chose not be contrary to her and held my tongue. I'm amazed that anyone can think this but I'm sure that many people do. I won't argue that running a long distance can be hard but to the human body it's a quite natural activity and its difficulty is simply a matter of the effort one puts into it. In my humble opinion, it's much "harder on your body" to sit on the couch and watch television or sit at a desk for hours on end (ow, my back!), to overindulge on shitty food or alcohol or drugs, to stay up late or to sleep all day or to walk around a mall buying crap that you don't need and don't value and call it "exercise."
In my life, I have been athletic enough to play baseball as a kid, play soccer, football and win state titles in weightlifting in high school, play rugby for three years, finish two triathlons, run two marathons and break 5 minutes for the mile in college, make it through Navy SEAL training "Hell Week" and learn to multi-pitch rock climb as a young adult. I've also been an avid mountain biker and I've become a pretty good freeride snowboarder over the last 20 years and more recently, a splitboarder and a mountain trail ultramarathoner. However, for a solid decade, from ages 26 to 36, I hardly did any of that (except go snowboarding during the winter when I moved to Colorado). In fact, I did all the things that I mentioned before and engaged in plenty of idiotic behavior that was "hard on my body." I've also been known to just get up, go to work, go home tired and fall asleep at a reasonable hour. So, I'm definitely qualified to speak on both lifestyles.
What I think I've learned is that what is hard on one's body is a product of what is hard on one's mind. I can't pretend to know what is the "right" way to live or that living one way is better than living another way. I'm not the kind of person that tries to convince everybody that they need to start running to change their lives even though I believe that they would benefit from it. I've done enough stupid shit in life to I know that I'm no expert on anything. Everyone is different and everyone has a different perspective. But, if you are not happy with the choices you make, then you will be hard on yourself, and, therefore, hard on your body. I like to believe that my running has made me a stronger person, physically and mentally. (A better person? I'm not sure about that.) Particularly, when I run with consistency and focus, I feel really strong and recover from hard workouts quite quickly. I find that I eat and sleep better, which helps me think more clearly and puts me in a good mood, at least on most days (after all, I'm only human). When I don't run/exercise, I find that just the opposite is true and I feel like something is missing. For me, running is never hard, it's a pleasure. It is freedom. For me, the hard part is going to work a job and being up for 12+ hours before I get to go and do the thing I actually enjoy doing. I should've tried to explain this to her but I'm not sure if she would understand because she hasn't had athletic experience. I guess I just would've liked it more if she had said, "Son, I see that you really love to run. Keep doing what you love to do (but don't get hurt doing it)."
So, thanks to my Mom, for making me think about this a little bit, helping me sort out what I should have tried to explain to her and giving me something to write about on my blog. If I felt like I could ramp up to 80 miles/week and still maintain balance in my life, I'd do it. Then, if someone said I was running too much, I might say, "Yeah, you're right." but then I don't think I'd have any time left to write about it! Allow me to encourage you to go out and do the things you love to do. And if it's going for a run (or hike or ride), give me a shout and we'll go together.