Running outside is the best.
At a base level it gets you out of the house — maybe provides some all-important vitamin D (if you’re lucky and the sun is out) — and anything beats running on a treadmill.
But there’s so much more to it. If you’ve ever run through all four seasons, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s like nothing else. There’s a mild form of meditation that takes place while running in the great outdoors. There’s something that’s freeing — so freeing that sometimes a sense of invincibility might take over. No matter where you live, the effect is the same. There’s simply no better way — in my opinion — to feel alive than on foot.
In addition to the escape that a good run gives you, there’s also that feeling of grounding and a sense of place that you get when running outside. Sure, you can get a taste of it while traveling to new places and lacing up your shoes — that’s a great way to get to know your destination. But it’s really when you leave your front door on foot that you learn your home.
“What happens during a run outside, wherever you are, can never be re-created — it’s never the same run twice.”
Last summer, I moved from New York City, where I was heavily involved in the urban running community, and made my way upstate to the Adirondack Mountains. Running in New York City changed my life entirely. I considered myself a local once I understood the subway system, but when I began to know the streets that ran between each subway stop above-ground — on foot — New York became a whole new world. I gained confidence in the greatest city on earth, running in neighborhoods that could change entirely in just half a mile.
Some days I’d happen to run by a pickup basketball game in Bed-Stuy, alongside a fundraising walk on the Brooklyn Bridge or past a bar on a weeknight in Astoria to catch a few seconds of a full band’s lively music. Urban running made me feel so connected to my temporary home in a way that I never thought imaginable: Running through hurricanes, blizzards and heat waves. Running to work, to the bar, in an underground race. Running to beat the traffic light. What happens during a run outside, wherever you are, cannot be re-created — it’s never the same run twice.
Now, my runs are plenty quieter but lively in new, welcome ways. I frequently cross paths with turkeys, deer and foxes. I’m continuously challenged by the rolling hills, soft back roads and seemingly endless trails that have become my new obstacle course. Though the terrain is different in the Adirondacks than it is in New York City, the feeling of running outdoors provides the same benefits and sense of freedom. I get the benefits of opening my lungs in a climate other than a gym and feeling oxygen rushing to the brain.
I love the freeing feeling of not always knowing what lies around each corner. As runners and humans, we need this — even on the days with rain, snow, or blinding sunshine.