For more than a decade, Deena Kastor was one of the fastest female marathon runners in the country. Deena held the American marathon record from 2006 to 2022. And she proved her ability on the world stage, winning a bronze medal at the Olympics in Athens, Greece.
But like most runners, Deena didn’t run just for medals or the thrill of competition. She also understood the health benefits of running for her body and mind. Deena said, “When I run, I’m in touch with my deepest self. I feel alive and invincible.”
As runners, we know what she’s talking about.
Mile by mile, many of us have discovered running can be a deeply personal and therapeutic experience – one that allows us to be in touch with our deepest selves. And that’s a reward we all can gain from running our own race – whether we place first, third, or last.
So, as you start your training plan for PNC Women Run the Cities, presented by TRIA, it’s important to keep in mind you’re not only improving your physical health – you’re also taking care of your mental health.
When we run, our body releases endorphins that make us feel good. Many of us even experience a “runner’s high”. But there are other ways running can benefit our mental health. It can improve our emotional wellbeing, social lives, and even our cognitive condition. That’s why running is a full-body, -mind, and -soul workout.
In fact, here’s what running does for:
Our Bodies – Running can help maintain good overall health. We just feel good when we feel better physically. It can support better digestion, higher metabolism, increased strength and stamina, stronger muscle tone, better sleep, and increased energy.
Our Minds – Running can produce helpful cognitive benefits such as moments of peace, calm, relaxed thinking, and time for meditation. When we’re running, we often have those “aha” moments, as long runs give us time to think through things and gather a greater sense of clarity with something we may be struggling with.
Our Souls – Running can create a time and place for stress relief and emotional release. Burning off negative thoughts and clearing our minds are healthy practices that also provide positive self-connection. Running can also help build confidence, self-esteem, and optimism. When we feel good about ourselves, it’s easier to have a positive outlook on life in general.
Our Lives – Opportunities for socialization are also added benefits of running. Some of us enjoy the camaraderie and social connection while running with others.
With all this to gain from running, it’s important to make it a priority in our lives. Because when we prioritize running, we’re making a strong statement about ourselves. We’re saying: my run is important. My time is important. My needs are important. I am important. Those acknowledgements alone can have positive impacts on our mental wellbeing.
I tell my clients all the time that “movement is medicine for the body, mind, and soul.” And I see that medicine at work every day in those I run with.
That doesn’t mean every runner is in perfect mental health. We’re all running our own races. We all have work to do to care for our bodies, minds, and souls. But when we prioritize our runs, we’re doing the work we need to do to be the very best versions of ourselves.
So, as you gear up to run PNC Women Run the Cities on May 18, be proud you’re a runner. Run for the joy of running and all the positive benefits that come with it. And every time you lace up your shoes and go for a run, remember you're doing more than giving your body a workout – you're exercising your mental health.
This article orginally appeared in the monthly participant e-newsletter to PNC Women Run the Cities entrants. Learn more about the event here.
Katie Mark is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who owns On the Mark Therapy, LLC. Katie provides mental health therapy while running and / or walking with her clients in nature. She is one of the team of Motion Experts TCM has gathered to help its subscribers and participants get the most out of their running. You can contact Katie about her private therapy practice at [email protected] .