Wednesday, February 25, 2015


There has been some debate lately regarding running and mental health.

High profile suicides, like the death of Robin Williams, have prompted some folks, including this writer, to promote running as a means to sound mental health.

I am not a mental health professional, nor are most of the folks who write for major running publications. A person with clinical depression or serious mental health problems needs to seek professional help. Running will not "cure" a mental illness.

But, in the same manner in which running can improve one's physical well-being, I believe it can help one maintain good mental health, or as the ancient Greeks said, "A sound mind in a sound body."

There is no doubt that running can provide stress relief. A bad day at the office, difficulties at home, or problems in a relationship, can all be brought into focus by turning in a good workout.

Last summer, as I wrapped up writing my second book, Personal, I interviewed Jenny Burgess, a wife, mother, chiropractor, and four-time Boston Marathon runner. At the end of a difficult day, when she announces to her three children that she plans to go for a run, she tells them that when she returns, she will be "A better mommy."

Jenny's quote is right on the money. For the most part, our running makes us "better" at whatever we do. We are, indeed, sounder in mind and body when we return.

Sometimes, when things have gone splendidly, or when that perfect day of weather appears, we can't wait to lace up our shoes and get out there.

Anger, frustration, and disappointment are all reduced after a training run.

I've run on the happiest days of life, after the birth of each of my three children; and I've run on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, on the day of my father's death, and the day after my wife and I were in the midst of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. At races all over the country, in the weeks and months following the bombing, runners used races with fellow runners as a means of coping with the senseless act.

Whether one runs in the pre-dawn hours or after dark, our daily run is often the best part of our day.

Our mental health is severely tested when we CAN'T run.

During the summer of 2013, I was unable to run a step for six weeks after I tore two hamstring tendons during a fall on a routine training run. Midway through the ordeal I became irritable and very easily agitated. Outdoor therapy was my release. My lawn, yard, and garden received an overabundance of attention. One June day, however, my inability to start my weed whacker, after several attempts, got the best of me. After shouting an expletive, I hurled it like a javelin. I really needed to get back to running real soon.

Continue to use your running as both a means of physical and mental health. It is our positive addiction. We have been introduced to running as a great gift. By utilizing this gift, we are able to maintain our sound minds in our sound bodies.

                                                  Jenny Burgess-2013 Boston Marathon