Some of us love to run. Miles on miles on miles. Others, not so much. Men’s Fitness editors were wondering: What sets the two groups apart? What can those of us who don’t love to run learn from the ones who do? So, we teamed up with Mizuno to give away a great prize to a reader who answered this question best: What do you think about when you’re running?
It may seem simple, but the truth is, how you answer that question could be the determining factor in whether or not you enjoy or loathe pounding the pavement. And the responses we received certainly surprised us! Some heartfelt—even profound. Others pretty straight forward. More still were laugh-out-loud funny. But one of the common threads: Most were pretty inspiring—From giving us new ideas for what we could think about next time we’re slogging through a 10K to making us feel grateful that we’re physically capable of running in the first place.
So, although there was only one winner, there were hundreds of great responses. Here are 37 of our favorites.
"The first mile I wonder why. In the middle I'm thinking "pretty good for 51". By the end I'm thinking I could have gone harder." -Tom C.
"I think of my wife who can no longer run because of an ankle fusion she had a year ago. Oh how I wish she could be running with me." -David C.
I try not to think. I try to use running as a meditation and have a oneness with myself and my surroundings. I use running to find peace, solitude, and a fulfilling lack of any outside or inner stressors. -Radcliffe B.
"The satisfaction and physical high of a completed run." -Peter T.
"Freedom." -Mike H.
"Everything, when I run it is time to plan and work things out!" -Brian L.
"How long until I can stop running." -Michael R.
"I run nature trails, so I think about the Beauty that is around me." -Forest L.
"Nothing. That's the joy of it. Running completely clears my head of the worry, the day, the stress of tomorrow." -Alexis C.
"I think of character and plot ideas for future stories that I might write." -Josh C.
"I think of getting faster and fitter and how much better my time is going to be in my next race. I also think of how much faster I'm getting than the guys who didn't run today." -Jesse G.
"I think about pineapple pizza with extra sauce and cheese." -Judy W.
"My ex-wife is chasing me!" -David K.
"Being able to go even further and getting stronger...No just kidding. I think of what I am going to eat when I'm done." -Diana M.
"I am always either listening to music or an audio book." -Keith J.
"When I run I think about the things that are bothering me and usually I can figure out what to do in the course of the run, sometimes I end up running further than planned just to figure out a rough situation." -Tammy E.
"I always think about my performance. Is this the best I can do, is that the longest I can run, do I have anything left in me? I constantly talk to myself about doing better and setting new goals." -John B.
"I train to be able to eat what I want. Therefore I am thinking about what I am going to eat after my workout. "What am I going to eat at the finish line?" -Jesus B.
"Epic fight scenes." -Lataevea B.
"I run with my wife, and she is good at it. When we run I mainly think "Oh God I can't breathe". -James D.
"Just make it to THAT post. (Once at the post) Okay, now make it a bit further. Come on!" -Shane F.
"I think of movies and try to replay them in my head as I'm running and before long I'm done." -Bruce B.
"I generally think of reversing the muscle atrophy and how it is getting cured by running. I had a muscle disease and my muscles atrophied badly. Now, I am back able to run and improving daily as I am fully cured from the blood infection which was causing the muscle atrophy." -Phillip B.
"That I am adding years to my life by exercising." -Fred G.
"I try not to think about anything. It's an attempt to be zen or something." -Lindsey R.
"The numbers to play to win the lottery!" -Greg C.
"I think about the last point in the basketball game and having the stamina to give my everything to win." -Allen C.
"The beat. Each [bead of] sweat that runs down my face. Every passing person I see. The dog panting one block past. The simple facts of life that people seem to ignore with their busy lives now a days. Running is like me being in another world, another universe, where it's calm and steady. Every heart beat and pounding is another minute to be proud to be on this meticulous and beautiful world." -D.S
"I'm always thinking of what Stephen Covey said as one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: "Begin with the End in Mind"! Its worked for me running a full marathon along with several halfs, 10-milers, 5-milers and 5k's so I stick with what works!" -Kevin O.
"I practice my German in my head, naming landmarks as I pass them, and even recalling some of the basic conversational elements. It's a great time to have your thoughts to yourself and practice something you might not be able to with others around." -Kevin G.
"When I'm running, I think about work. I know, it sounds awful! But rocking out to Spotify's new Running feature, it allows me to clear my mind and think about projects, upcoming stories I'm working on, what we need to do better, etc. As I focus on my gait and pace, I can let my mind wander -- or sometimes, race. And that's something I love. I think of my best stuff while I'm running. The hardest part is remembering it long enough to write it down when I get home." -Andrew V.
"I find running to be very calming, and as a basketball coach some of my greatest ideas for my team have come when I'm on the pavement." -Ryan R.
"I think of potential vacation ideas for my next trip." -Keith D.
"For some reason, I think about past experiences like ex-girlfriends, friends I haven't seen in a long time and even what other career choices I could have made. It's not a fact of thinking "what could have been" but more a fact of "here I am now and this is how I got here." -Chris R.
"When I'm not sucking for air I am trying to ignore the pain and listen to a few different podcasts. Helps the miles to pass quickly." -Daran L.
"I think about how I wish I had started when I was younger, that it wouldn't hurt so much...but better late than never." -Cynthia W.
"How sexy I'm looking." -Stephanie H.