Run Fun

Races Beckon Beginners



lzf/Shutterstock.com

“I’ve run in cities, rural areas and suburbs. I’ve run while deployed to military bases in the Middle East, in cities on four continents, in blazing heat and winter snowstorms,” says Maria Cicio, a licensed professional counselor candidate and marathoner in Grove, Oklahoma. “I’ve been running regularly for 25 years, mostly injury-free, and have found what works best for me.”

For beginners, Cicio recommends starting with a 5K race. “There are a hundred reasons why a full marathon would not be fun for a beginner, but trail running, charity races and 5K road races are perfect,” she says.

Cicio attests the physical health benefits come from the training and preparation more than from the race itself. “You can run for many years before deciding to run an official race, in which case you’ll probably have already experienced increased cardiovascular health, improved muscle tone and strength.

“Running your first race can focus your running and turn it into training. You might increase your daily or weekly mileage, depending on the planned length of the race, or add some speed work to your regular running routine. When I’m training for a race, I’m more in tune with what my body needs; I also sleep better,” she says.

The mental benefits are what keep many people running, even after the physical ones seem to plateau, advises Cicio. “Running means regular exercise, so it can improve our general mood. While numerous studies show this to be true, the best evidence comes from runners themselves.”

Almost everyone has heard of a runner’s high, even if we haven’t experienced it ourselves. It’s long been accepted that endorphins released during exercise create a feeling of euphoria after a satisfying workout. Recent research on mice by the Central Institute of Mental Health at the University of Heidelberg Medical School, in Germany, suggests that it might be natural endocannabinoids that lighten our mood and contribute to the high.

Meditation master Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, in Halifax, Canada, teaches an online course, The Art of Mindful Running. He points out that running, or doing any physical activity, in a meditative state can deepen, train and enhance the mind. “Within 20 to 30 minutes, you have an opportunity to work with your mind. Instead of just spacing out or trying to get exercise, you can actually say, ‘I am going to be present, I am going to relate to my breathing and my movement a little bit,’” says Mipham. “This is healthy both for the mind and the body.”

Those looking for an alternative to running on concrete and asphalt find that trail running ups the fun factor while nature nurtures us. “While I’d always loved running races, the roads rarely changed. Even the same trail tends to change daily, with a new puddle or a log to jump or crawl over, or a new offshoot. The natural running landscape is full of surprises,” says Nikki Partridge, an avid trail runner, American College of Sports Medicine-certified personal trainer and Stott Pilates instructor in Auburn, California.

“Trail running healed me,” says Partridge. “I always had some injury from running: tendonitis, sprained ankles, runner’s knee, pulled hamstrings, illiotibial band syndrome, shin splints or plantar fasciitis. I became a walking encyclopedia on injury and recovery. But the trails saved me. I no longer pronated when I ran, I had no more tendonitis from running on canting sidewalks—even my knee pain disappeared—my balance improved and my body was happy.”

When winding down after a race, carve out ample time for recovery and reflection. “I always ask myself what I liked about how it was organized, course conditions, support staff and the after-party, and then look for another race that fits my preferences,” says Cicio. “Consider taking a vacation around a particular race that interests you or find a local road race the next time you travel. For a modest fee, you get to run a race and typically luck into a T-shirt, food and party camaraderie.”

The running world can open our eyes to new places, good people and greater self-awareness, along with physical fitness. Spring is a good time to lace up our shoes and begin the expansive journey.


Aimee Hughes, a freelance writer in Kansas City, MO, is a doctor of naturopathy and senior staff writer for LongevityTimes online. Connect at Aimee@LongevityTimes.com.


This article appears in the April 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Gardening Asanas

Overdoing garden work can produce aches and pains, but by integrating yoga positions while planting and weeding, we can emerge pain-free after hours of being on our knees and bending.

Indigenous Wisdom

Indigenous elders from around the world meet together to pass down four sacred gifts of wisdom we would do well to heed.

Nature’s Remedies

Creatures in the wild ranging from microbes to elephants cope with parasites, pests and pain using natural substances; it all suggests why our preserving the natural world is good for us, too.

Healthy Climate, Healthy People

As the Earth slowly heats up, we’re being affected by rising allergens, disaster-related trauma and the increase in insects carrying dangerous diseases.

Whole Grains Help Us Eat Less

When overweight Danes exchanged refined grain products such as white bread and pasta for whole-grain equivalents, they tended to feel full sooner, eat less, lose weight and have less inflammation.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »This Month

Zen Shiatsu Training

Business Spotlight
Shiatsu School of Vermont, one of two schools certified in the U.S. to offer Zen-style shiatsu certification, is offering a one-year Certified Practitioner Program starting this September.

Transformation Through the Art of Breema

An upcoming weekend retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Movement from April 20 to 22 will provide a fulfilling entry into Breema’s philosophy, self-care exercises and bodywork.

Tour Green Homes at Green House Festival in Brookline

Mothers Out Front has organized a green home tour from noon to 3 p.m. on April 8, in Brookline.

Sleeping Better Naturally

Business Spotlight
At The Organic Mattress, a family-owned specialty sleep store, people will find mattresses made from natural and organic ingredients, including organic cotton, wool and natural latex made from the sap of rubber trees.

Rising Seas Threaten Boston

The Climate Action Business Association (CABA) is standing up to protect Commonwealth small business communities against imminent danger.

Peace on Earth

My latest favorite author is 20th-century new thought leader and philosopher Emmet Fox. His piece below feels like a perfect fit in light of the world’s celebration of our planet on Earth Day this month.