Run Grateful: 7 Surprising Reasons to Mix Running + Gratitude

Have you ever gone for a run and thought about the things you’re thankful for?

If you haven’t done this, you’re not alone. But this Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect time to think about it.

Beware of the poor-me mindset

A lot of runners head out the door fixated on mile pace, splits, distance, and performance.

We stress about nutrition, hydration, and traffic. We complain about race cancellations, poor course markings, or less-than perfect weather.

And we can spiral into negative-poor-me thinking if we’re dealing with an injury, fail to hit a PR, or leave a race with a DNF.

Been there, done that?

Run + unlock the power of gratitude

Sound a little woo-woo? 

It’s harder to measure the impact of gratitude compared to speed work to boost your mile pace or long runs to prepare for a marathon.

But there’s enough anecdotal evidence and research on the power of gratitude to at least keep an open mind.

  • The four-minute mile. There was a time when everyone thought running a 4-minute mile was impossible. And then Roger Bannister showed us how it’s done.
  • The sub-two-hour marathon. And it won’t be long before Eliud Kipchoge officially breaks the two-hour marathon barrier.

The point...keep an open mind. Take a closer look at gratitude, and you might be surprised by how it can boost your mood and make your runs even better.

Runners: What are you thankful for?

If you’ve never really thought about it, NOW is the perfect time. 

It’s the Thanksgiving season. If you’re a runner, what are you thankful for?

  • Running friends
  • A healthy body
  • Crossing-the-finish-line experiences
  • Well-designed running shoes, clothes and gear
  • A running coach
  • Tech tools and wearables
  • GPS
  • Virtual runs
  • Your favorite trail or running route
  • Endorphins
  • The runner who inspired you to start

Think about it. Make a list. Write it down. Maybe even let someone know they’ve helped you become a better runner by sending a text message, thank-your card, or DM.

7 reasons to mix running + gratitude

When Harvard University researcher Dr. Michael Craig Miller reviewed a series of studies on the impact of gratitude, he made some interesting connections...

Here’s 7 reasons to mix running + gratitude. Research shows an attitude of gratitude can help:

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Improve heart health
  3. Strengthen the immune system
  4. Improve quality of sleep
  5. Maintain healthy habits
  6. Manage or prevent depression
  7. Improve self-esteem

Translation...When you live with an attitude of gratitude, it’s easier to get out of bed and go for a run when it’s early, dark, cold, or all three.

When you run with others, your gratitude-state-of-mind can help you lift others up, keep them motivated, and enjoy a run, even if it isn’t perfect.

Gratitude helps you run happy. But it even serves to protect your health, boost your immune system, and even speed recovery with quality sleep and less stress.

Runners: What are you grateful for?

There’s a long list of things and people I can put on my running gratitude list...

  • Well-cushioned running shoes
  • My support crew for 100-mile races
  • 47 years of near-injury-free running
  • DNFs that taught me so much
  • The sound of quiet on a mountain trail
  • Race directors and volunteers
  • And so much more

If I had to pick just one thing to be grateful for...Boston Marathon guy comes to mind.

When I ran my first marathon 25 years ago, I was a nervous wreck at the starting line of the Park City Marathon in Utah.

I spotted a guy in the crowd wearing a Boston Marathon jacket. Hoping to calm my pre-race jitters and get some last minute advice, I struck up a conversation.

We chatted for a few minutes. And he disappeared into the crowd when the race started.

I ran way too fast. I didn’t hydrate or fuel well. I hit the wall hard like a classic overzealous newbie around mile 20. I sat down in a chair, stiffening up by the second, and thinking this might be the end

And out of nowhere, Boston Marathon guy appeared.

“Come on man, you can’t just sit there,” he said. “You’ve got to keep moving. Hang with me and I’ll get you to the finish. It’s an easy 10K from here.”

Boston Marathon guy could have left me in the chair to suffer...maybe even chalk up my first DNF.

He could have left me in the dust after I got up from the chair and hobbled my way to the finish.

And he could have trashed talked all the bad decisions I made earlier in the race.

Instead, he peppered me with encouragement and pushed me to the finish.

That first marathon changed everything. Thank you Boston Marathon guy.

Runners: What are you grateful for? Like, Share, and Tell us about it in the comments.

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Evan Jensen
SANDY, Oregon

I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM-certified personal trainer, and hold the record for the most finishes at the Mountain Lakes 100-Mile Ultra in Oregon.


Brynn Cunningham Boston Marathon guy 😍love it! Quick gratitude list: hand warmers, local races that make it possible for those not so interested in destination races, running friends who have become best friends, a mom who is super healthy, my twin, all family including awesome in-laws, healthy sons and this weeviews community 🙂

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