Two photos of Lauren running

Running benefits: “Why I feel at my most powerful when I’m running”

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Running offers a whole host of benefits, but for Stylist’s Lauren Geall, it’s the feeling she gets while running which makes it so addictive.

I can remember the first time I ran 5k very clearly. I hadn’t planned to try and run 5k – I was still a complete beginner, and had only just managed to run 2k without walking in the middle – but there was something about that day in early April this year that made me go for it.

Watching the kilometres clock up on my watch was almost addictive, and even though I was struggling for breath (and energy) by 4k, I pushed myself to the very end. My time was nothing to phone home about, but the feeling of doing it – of putting one foot in front of the other, despite the urge to stop – was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  

Since then, that feeling has gotten me through plenty more 5k runs, supplying me with the energy I needed to push myself harder and improve my times week after week. But until recently, I hadn’t had the vocabulary to describe exactly what that feeling was.

While scrolling through The Guardian’s homepage this weekend, I stumbled across an interview with I May Destroy You creator Michaela Coel.

To mark the release of her new book, Misfits, the paper had asked her to answer a series of questions from fans and celebrities alike – the result being a fascinating portrayal of Coel beyond the boundaries of her creative talents. But amid the myriad of questions and answers, there was one comment in particular which stood out to me: Coel’s answer to the question, “When do you feel most powerful?” 

“I would say I feel most powerful when I’m running,” Coel responded. “I run most days. I did a half-marathon two days ago in an hour and 53 minutes. Eight minutes 58 seconds per mile, which is not my fastest. It’s OK, it was very hot in Memphis. And even last night, I just went out for a little walk, I was in a yellow dress, and then I thought, ‘Oh, I feel like running’ and it turned into a run. I did have trainers on with the dress.”

While I’m obsessed with the image of Coel running full-pelt down the street in a yellow dress, that wasn’t the part that stood out to me the most.

The idea that running could make you feel powerful wasn’t something that hadn’t really crossed my mind, but it perfectly describes the sense of motivation and strength I get from running – the same feeling I first experienced when I pushed myself to do 5k back in April.  

As someone who deals with anxiety, I often feel like my mind and body are out of my control. But when I’m running, I’m the one in the driver’s seat: when my legs are aching, my brain is telling me to stop and my heart is pumping out of my chest, I get to decide to keep going. 

That – and the sense of achievement I get when I finish – helps me to feel like I could do anything.

Knowing that I have the potential to run 5k also helps me to feel more powerful in my day-to-day life, too. It may sound silly, but as someone who has literally never been fit, the knowledge that I can stand up, slip on my running shoes and carry my body that far has given me a sense of achievement unlike many of the things I’ve done in my life.  

This sense of power is also helping me to push myself when it comes to my running goals. For the moment, I’m focusing on running a sub-30 5k, but after that, I’d love to run 10k and beyond. 

Previously, the idea of running that far would have filled my stomach with dread, but now that I’ve done something I never thought I would do (running 5k), I can train in the knowledge that I’ll get there one day.

When I ran that first 5k, I underestimated how transformative pushing myself physically could be. Like Coel, I too feel most powerful when I’m running – and I can’t wait to see where my newfound passion takes me. 

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Images: Getty

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.