As a seasoned marathon runner, exercise physiologist, and physical therapist, I tend to hear a lot of running related questions. Depending on who is asking me, some questions are serious and some are generally said in jest. Whatever the case may be, I wanted to put together some of my favorite and most frequently asked questions. Some of you may be wondering these same things but have never wanted to ask anyone. Some of you may have heard these same questions and not known how to answer them. Still some of you will undoubtedly say, “yep. I get that all the time.” Without further ado, here are some of the most common questions I hear regarding running and some of my typical answers to them…

“Oh you’re running the ____ marathon this weekend. How far is THIS marathon?” 

I hear this question less and less, but there are still a lot of people that do not understand that a marathon is a formal distance. If this question is asked, the person generally assumes that a “marathon” is just any really long run that they can never imagine running. This is a good opportunity to educate, politely. “It’s 26.2 miles. A marathon is actually a set distance, so all marathons are the same distance. A half marathon is 13.1 miles.”

“26 miles?! I don’t drive that many miles in a day, how do you run that far?!” 

“Training and you keep putting one foot in front of the other.” 

“How fast do you run a mile?” 

I love this question because it immediately tells me what sort of experience a person has with running. This question is an attempt to understand what it is I do in distance running. Most people are actually trying to ask “how fast do you run each mile when you run a marathon?”, but it can be hard to grasp the distance of a marathon when you don’t even run to avoid cars in the parking lot. My general answer is something along the lines of, “I haven’t timed just one mile since high school. Any time I run a mile it is as a part of a larger workout, but for a marathon I run between 6:30 and 7 minutes each mile.” This then leads to their follow up of “so how long does it take you to run a marathon?” and we keep going from there. 

“What are the best running shoes?”

This is a longer answer typically, so I won’t give you my word-for-word answer but let’s talk. At this point, every running shoe brand that the person asking this question has heard of makes a variety of models at different price points. Within each brand, GENERALLY the more expensive their shoe, the more premium features you see: better rubber on the sole, better/more responsive midsole foams, carbon plates, etc. Now between brands, price is not always comparable (ex. $120 pair of brand X are not always the same quality as brand Y’s $120 shoe). However, the most expensive shoe on earth may be awful for you. The best running shoe is the one that is the best for you. Different brands shape their shoes differently, stack the foam differently, distribute the weight, and on and on. The best plan is to go to a running specialty store and let them help you. Your shoe should complement your running form and not act as a brace to correct something wrong. If you are relying on a shoe to fix you, you are putting a bandaid on the problem and not addressing the core problem. If you have gait deviations that are causing pain or injury, go see a physical therapist who knows how to treat runners and let them work with you to address the root of your problem. 

“What do you do when you are running for that long?”

I run. 

More seriously, one of the great things about running is the mental/spiritual benefits of running. Most runners that I know would list this at the top of their lists as far as why they run. There is a restorative component of running that helps clear the mind and refocus what you are doing and this has been shown in numerous studies. I personally use some of the time to pray and reflect on what is going on in my life. I have known several runners who refer to “the church of the long run” because there is just something innately spiritual about that good morning long run.  

Once or maybe two times a week I will listen to music on a run but I typically do this on shorter and slower runs. Music can be tricky because if you aren’t careful, you will get caught up in the song and run faster than you should for the run you are doing. Podcasts are also pretty solid choices and you can do a lot of self growth while pounding the pavement. 

There are countless other questions that I hear, but these are just some of my favorites or the ones that I hear the most often. At the core, there is an understanding that not everyone understands why I/we run. Runners are some of the nicest and weirdest people around. There is nothing like the running community and it can be fun to share that with others as they seek to learn more about running.

-Dr. Zach Ginnings