Why You Should Go On a Gratitude Run
No Turkey Trot? No problem. Do this solo Thanksgiving run instead.
Turkey Trots are huge. Last year, 961,882 people trotted in 726 races, according to Running USA. Which means all across the country, families, avid runners, and once-a-year runners gather together to cover a few miles before giving thanks, going back for seconds, and reuniting with their old friends Stretchy Pants and Naptime-all good things. (Related: In Defense of Eating What You Want On Thanksgiving)
But this year, I want to suggest something a little more meditative: a gratitude run. So instead of embracing your typical reasons for running-getting stronger, faster, fitter; clearing your head; unleashing your competitive spirit-a gratitude run reminds you of everything you're grateful for. It's also the quickest fix for a bad day-or the best start to a good one. And there's no need to register: Just lace up like you would for any other run (sans headphones or any distractions) and think about all the things you're grateful for.
I stumbled across this idea a few years ago when I was in a really sour mood. I went for a run to clear my head, but instead, I found myself annoyed with pedestrians and red lights. Then I remembered that saying about how you can't be grateful and angry at the same time. So I decided, screw this, nothing else is working-and so I started making a list.
With each foot strike, I reeled off my good fortune. I'm grateful for my grandparents. I'm grateful for scrambled eggs and sourdough toast. I'm grateful for people who smile on the sidewalk. I'm grateful for my sleepy, hardworking body. I'm grateful for Reese's Pieces.
To my surprise, the list grew and grew with each passing mile and all my negative feelings started to float away. And there's no hierarchy. You can be grateful for things both trivial and important. That's the trick. You're suddenly reminded of everything you have instead of everything you want. Here are some other benefits of going on a gratitude run:
This type of run never feels like work.
Gratitude runs aren't about speed. You're not rushing to the 400-meter mark or checking your Garmin. You're not cruising along at your marathon-goal pace. You're thinking about friends you've known for decades or new acquaintances who have stumbled into your life, and how lucky you are to know them. (See also: Why I Love Running Without a Fitness Tracker or GPS Watch)
You'll develop new mantras to inspire you.
Getting creative with your list can become a calmly repetitive mantra. You're not spiraling about the latest drama at the office or what you should have said when you found out Sharon from accounting stole your yogurt from the fridge. You're not thinking about that Tinder date who ghosted you. When a negative thought creeps in, bring your awareness back to where you are and what you're seeing in the moment: nice foliage! A beautiful pond! A friendly neighbor! Trust me, this approach comes in handy during the last few miles of a marathon.
You'll strengthen your bonds with those around you.
And they don't even need to be running with you! A runner friend told me she met a woman running the Boston Marathon who carried 26 cards with her, so she could think about someone important every single mile. Here she was, at the most competitive race in the world, and she chose to think about her tribe of people back home. You can do this during a gratitude run, too, and dedicate each mile to someone you love. Run with a friend if you want and share your list with each other.
But ultimately, think of a gratitude run as a special way to treat yourself. It's a wave of good feelings anytime you need a reminder of how great your life really is. I can't think of a more appropriate way to kick off Thanksgiving than by giving thanks for everything you have, everyone you're with-and yes, everything you're about to eat-while appreciating your body for all the miles (both figurative and literal) it carries you through.