5 Reasons to Run, Even When No One is Watching

5 Reasons to Run, Even When No One Is Watching

I used to hate running. And I mean I really, truly, unequivocally despised it. 

As a kid, I remember being excited to run with my older brother in a local Fourth of July fun run in Oregon only to trip and scrape my hands and knees mere feet after the starting line. I had to be picked up and carted away by my father while crying, bleeding and embarrassed.

Apart from my clumsiness, I was slow. Running shoes always hurt my feet. I was self-conscious about how I looked when I ran. And what’s more, gym teachers always seemed to use running as a punishment. Sick and missed a day of school? Upon your return, expect to run a mile around the basketball courts while all the other kids picked their teams for some group sport.

During college, after finally getting over my “running hurts and is pointless” mentality of childhood, I got an itch to go for a jog on the path outside my dorm. I kept running outside for several more weeks, then switched to my parents’ treadmill while home for winter break. Rather than being painful and embarrassing, running suddenly felt like a way to distract and calm my busy mind, especially during the volatile ups-and-downs of college life. 

“Rather than being painful and embarrassing, running suddenly felt like a way to distract and
calm my busy mind, especially during the volatile ups-and-downs of college life.”

As I moved around the world in my early to mid 20s, I found that running continued to provide mental clarity. While living in the UK, I ran my first 5K in London’s Regent’s Park, a charity run for Doctors Without Borders. I returned to the US and ran the BolderBoulder Memorial Day 10K with my mother. Then I moved to Seoul, South Korea and started running in Olympic Park nearly every day (mostly to de-stress after teaching kindergarten all day long). Later, while briefly living in Thailand, I ran daily on the dirt roads of the island of Koh Phangan, occasionally joined by a monkey or a few of the local dogs along my route. Years after that, I continued to run in the rain, snow, and summer heat while living in Washington. 

Then I got married. And I stopped running. 

Life got busy. We moved to Italy. I let myself slack. As more and more time went by, I no longer felt attached to the idea of myself as a runner like I had been in my 20s. And as both a perfectionist and the spouse of an Air Force rescue pilot, I’m a little embarrassed by this fact. If my husband regularly goes out to run a mile or two, shouldn’t I be motivated to do so, too?

So when the Air Force Marathon came across my radar in July, I thought it might be a good idea to try a half-marathon — something I’ve never done before in my life. And now that race month is well underway, I’ll admit that I’m routinely questioning why I decided running 13.1 miles was a good idea. It’s more than I’ve ever run at one time. If I’m no longer “a runner,” who am I to think that I can do this? Why would I even bother? 

Well, I can think of five good reasons to try.


  • To get out of my comfort zone. 


Over recent years, I got really comfortable being comfortable. As my running schedule diminished, my yoga routine dwindled along with it. My husband and I had a nightly routine of making dinner and watching TV together. Amid the chaos of life, this routine was simple. It was comfortable. 

Being comfortable feels like solace during life’s hectic moments, and it’s easy to make excuses when life is busy and moving fast. But, as any runner knows, getting used to the discomfort that accompanies running  — both mentally and physically — has amazing benefits. Among them, running can help us recover from stress and process memories


  • To remind myself that I can do hard things. 


As a former runner who’s trying to get back in the swing of things, I’m probably not going to do amazingly well during my 13.1 miles, but I’m OK with that. I decided late in the game that I wanted to sign up for the Air Force Marathon, and I didn’t want to back down just because I wasn’t feeling quite ready enough. 

There are so many things in life that get thrown to the wayside because it feels like it’s too late to accomplish them. Because the AFM is being held virtually this year, there won’t be any big crowds cheering us runners on as we make our way to the finish line. My motivation will need to come from within, and it will start with making a commitment to lace up my shoes every day and get out the door. Of course it will be challenging at times, but that’s also what makes it worthwhile.


  • To take care of my mind, body and soul. 


For many, running is an outlet that can clear the mind and boost creativity. In my former life as a journalist, I often felt most creative when out for a jog, stopping occasionally to write down thoughts or full paragraphs of a story in the notes section of my phone. 

Running has obvious physical and mental benefits as well. In a 2019 study, first-time marathoners showed improved arterial elasticity after training for the London Marathon for six months — many jogging only a few days per week. Of course, the mental and emotional ‘highs’ that come from running are also renowned. In the timeless words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” 

  • To take control of things when they feel out of my control. 


In late December 2019, I told myself that 2020 would be my year. I’d start working out every single day. I’d have a daily meditation habit. I’d read before bed instead of falling asleep while staring at Twitter. I’d be the definition of wellness.

Then the pandemic happened. Here in Italy, we had to carry government-issued paperwork any time we left the house. Sleep became elusive as insomnia became the norm. My anxiety peaked. Doomscrolling took over. 

2020 has felt uncontrollable for many of us, but not every element of it has to be. When things feel out of our control, creating predictability in our day-to-day can help reel that feeling of stability back in. Deciding to train for a half-marathon was one way for me to take the wheel and steady myself during a bizarrely turbulent year. 


  • Most importantly, I’m running to support a mission that I truly believe in. 


This year, I’m running the Air Force Marathon to support the charity partner That Others May Live Foundation (TOMLF).

Founded in 2002, TOMLF’s mission includes “providing immediate tragedy assistance for the families of USAF Rescue Airmen who are killed or severely injured in combat” and “assisting with providing a college education for every child who has lost a parent during an operational or training Air Force Rescue mission.” The non-profit has granted over $600,000 in support to the Rescue community, and from 2014 through 2019, made a difference in the lives of nearly 3000 people through its programs.

I first heard about TOMLF in 2017, right after my husband and I got married. It was an organization he donated to monthly, he said, because the money goes directly toward helping people in the Rescue community when they need it most. 

The Rescue Community is full of people who put everything on the line to help others in some of the most dangerous places around the world. As the spouse of one of those people, I pray my family will never need to depend on TOMLF’s assistance, but I am grateful knowing they exist and will be there if something does happen. This is one of the reasons I started volunteering with the organization in August, and it’s why I’m running the Air Force Marathon. 

“The Rescue Community is full of people who put everything on the line to help others
in some of the most dangerous places around the world.”

During such an unprecedented year as this one, it can be easy to lose sight of goals we thought were important and motivations we used to have to accomplish them. Even though I may be nervous to run my first half-marathon this month, I’m confident that my motivations are strong, and they’re as good a reason as any to at least try.

Lauren is dedicating her race to USAF Rescue warriors, veterans and families by running with That Others May Live Foundation.  To learn more and support Lauren, click here.  

Written by: Lauren Maslen


Related Pages:

Charity Partners
Air Force Marathon 2021

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