First Person

4 ways running can change your life and the world

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A runner sprints for the finish line during the 29th annual Grand Bara 15K race in the Grand Bara Desert, Djibouti. Photo: Staff Sgt. Jonathan Steffen / US Air Force (

“I just got back from a run. What a waste of time,” said no one, ever.

I’m not sure exactly when you go from being a person who runs occasionally to the more formal title of “runner”. I guess for me that redefinition happened this year. To kick off 2014, I committed to running at least one 4K each and every week as an effort to raise funds in support of Oxfam’s work to help families around the world lift themselves out of poverty. I’ve found that fundraising has brought my running to a whole new level. Here are just four reasons why:

1. Running is powerful

I can only imagine how it feels to accomplish a marathon or even a half-marathon, but even after my relatively short runs, I feel pretty invincible. It’s no secret that running is a great way to strengthen your body and your mind. I’m at my best after a run. I feel like I can accomplish just about anything—such as writing a blog, for example. Turning my runs into a fundraising opportunity adds a powerful layer of motivation. I feel like I’m accomplishing even more at the end of my run, knowing that I’ve just raised funds to support life-changing work. Of course this isn’t limited to running alone. You can turbocharge any exercise activity or event—a walk, a yoga-thon, a bike race—by turning it into a fundraising challenge.

2. Running is uplifting

If we want to be changemakers, self-care is incredibly important. Staying optimistic can be difficult when you look with eyes wide open at the world we live in, with all its pain and suffering. Massive natural disasters take lives in the blink of an eye. Conflicts consistently plague the planet. Poverty persists, holding one in three of us in its clutches. Running and exercise actually improves your mood by releasing endorphins into your body. It’s after a run that even on a day of seeing some of the toughest stuff, I can acutely focus on the good; every day there are people all over the world who lead the way, lifting their communities up from these difficult situations. There are also people like you and me who care and want to help support those communities.

3. Running is liberating

Bruce Springsteen says it best: “baby, we were born to run.” It makes for a great running song, but there’s more to it than that. Running is living in the moment. You can start your day off with an early-morning jog or later run away from that long work day. Running, for me, is like hitting the refresh button on my brain. It clears my mind, allowing me to move beyond day-to-day stresses, and see the big picture. Carving out this space for creative thinking is critical. It will take a whole lot of creativity to work together and effectively put an end to poverty.

4. Running is movement

“When you pray, move your feet.” Running is a pretty literal take on that old West African proverb—you’re moving your entire body when you run. Whatever your faith, the point of the proverb is that we should act on our beliefs. Running for Oxfam is one more way I can do that. We’ve got to keep moving ourselves and we’ve got to move others to action if we want to make our world a better place. Running has always been a deeply personal activity for me, but turning my runs into fundraisers has connected me more deeply to my friends and family, allowing me to share my passion for fighting global poverty. The overwhelming movement of support that I’ve experienced is motivating—I don’t dare miss a week of running! And it’s a reminder to me that only by working together can we solve the world’s problems.

Why do you run? I’d love to hear your reasons in the comments below.

Go the extra mile this spring: Turn your race, walk, or other event into a fundraising opportunity.

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