Legendary Running Myths
There are a lot of myths about running that keep people from trying the sport or keeping at it for the long run (pun intended). Some of these misconceptions are quite legendary in that they persist even though they’ve been dispelled time after time. In no particular order, here are my favorite legendary running myths and the truth behind them.
MYTH 1: Running is bad for your knees: The myth about running being bad for your knees has been debunked several times over, yet it’s still shared as a cautionary warning. While the force on the knee during a run is nearly three times that of walking, the force is offset by the amount of time that runners spend in the air and on the length of stride. In other words, the accumulating force on the knee between walking and running is much closer than you might think, meaning running doesn’t impact knees any more than walking.
The truth is that running is actually better for the knees because the activity strengthens the muscles that support the joint. Regular running also goes a long way in managing weight and reduces the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Studies have shown that marathoners have a lower rate of arthritis than the general US population. In addition, studies have shown that patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis experienced less pain if they ran regularly. All of this information can be found summarized in this article and you can follow the links in the article for additional details: https://www.livescience.com/is-running-bad-for-your-knees
MYTH 2: Runners don’t walk:
Many people simply assume that runners don’t take walk breaks in training or during a race. The truth is that runners do walk! Olympian Jeff Galloway created the walk/run method decades ago to address the common injuries and burnout that plague new runners. There are many advantages to the walk/run technique. New runners will find that the body adapts faster to running when using the walk/run intervals, thereby reducing the risk for injury and burnout. Many physical therapists will recommend that injured runners use a walk/run method after they are cleared to run after an injury. I personally recommend the walk/run method for new runners and those attempting new distances. In the trail and ultra world, walking is a solid strategy to protect muscles and preserve energy on steep climbs. Taking strategic walk breaks based on steep terrain and during aid stations can be the advantage that gets you to the finish line. Visit Galloway’s website for more information about the walk/run method: https://www.jeffgalloway.com/
MYTH 3: I don’t have a runner’s body:
Sadly, many people think that you have to be thin or lose weight before starting to run. The truth is there is no such thing as a runner’s body or race weight. If you can manage a gait whereby one or both feet are off the ground in a fashion that propels you forward faster than walking, then you are a runner. You don’t have to fit any particular body type, age, weight, height, muscular profile, gender or any other physical attribute.
If you watch the Olympics or other major running races, you might see a lot of thin endurance athletes or muscular track athletes; however, don’t get the impression that the rest of the world’s population isn’t running. If you go to any local race, you will absolutely see runners of all shapes, sizes and all abilities.
MYTH 4: I’m too old to start running:
How old is too old to begin running? The truth is that age is just a number and really has little relevance as to what you can or cannot do, including whether or not to start running. Before starting ANY exercise regimen, you should ALWAYS consult a doctor to assess your health, but age alone isn’t a limiting factor. According to a study by RunRepeat and the IAAF, the average age of runners is getting older. In 1986, the average age of runners was 35 and in 2018 it was 39. Participation in the marathon has also risen in the 40–50-year-old demographic.
Anecdotally, several years ago, I ran a local full marathon while my husband ran the half marathon with his 70-year-old father. I recently shared an article on my social media pages about a 90-year-old that runs ultra marathons. As noted in the article, he started running at age 48 to lose weight. You can read about him here, but there are many more articles written about runners in the Masters and Grand Masters categories. If you start running earlier in life, you can extend your running ability, and arguably overall health, to much later in life. As long as you are healthy and, again, the doctor clears you, you can start running at any age.
Read The State of Running 2019 for some insightful information about demographics: https://runrepeat.com/state-of-running
MYTH 5: The goal is to win:
Only real runners race and win medals. The truth is unless you are a pro athlete or Olympic contender, the main goal of running isn’t primarily to win. What does it say about running when only a handful of people, out of hundreds to thousands, make it to the podium on race day? Ask any runner why they run and you’ll likely get answers that vary from maintaining physical health, managing stress or mental health, socializing with friends, enjoying the outdoors, to build confidence or resilience, to see how far they can run, bucket list goals, and the list goes on.
Some runners never race at all. Some runners race, but with a goal to finish the race, enjoy the course or to experience the race with friends. Some people choose to do a marathon before they hit a certain age or as a bucket list item. The reasons to race are so varied that winning is often lower on the list of priorities for race day.
The Running Truth
Myths make good stories, but that’s about it. Don’t let common running misconceptions keep you from running and meeting your own epic goals! If you are interested in starting a running journey, then get started. You don’t have to be a certain age or weight, but you should always talk with your doctor before starting any exercise program. Then, reach out to me for additional guidance and support. I can help you make realistic goals, while dispelling legendary myths, and get you on the path to a healthy, happy running journey.