Why I Run: Lacing Up to Propel Myself Through the Peaks and Valleys of Life

Erin Tarr, founder of Be the Benchmark, runs to fuel her forward momentum.

Some people are runners at heart. The rest of us suffer through it for physical fitness, vanity, or FOMO (we can’t be the only one without a marathon medal around our neck!). Our “Why I Run” series is an attempt at changing the conversation round running. The stories behind why some influencers, fitness experts and entrepreneurs hit the pavement may just inspire you to make running a part of your own routine. 

EVERUP: Can you remember your first experience with running? What was it like?

TARR: I vividly remember when I started running, the summer before my senior year of highschool. I was going through a breakup, and several of my friends ran cross-country, and I thought, “why not? That might be something fun to try.” Turns out, I didn’t hate it.

When did running become something that you incorporated regularly into your routine?

I have, since that time, ALWAYS thought of myself as a runner. Even when I wasn’t running regularly. When college club and class schedules were too busy, I didn’t always make time for running. When I graduated, I started back up again. After each pregnancy (all three), I would usually take up running about a year after giving birth. And I am now in a season where I run 3-4 times a week in preparation to run my first half marathon.

What is the biggest improvement in your life that you attribute to running?

ALL. THE. THINGS. It has always made me feel strong and healthy—even if it wasn’t resulting in weight loss—so the physiological benefits of improved self image, mood enhancement, and stress relief, etc. have always been awesome improvements for me. And now, as a mom of three, just the escape to my own thoughts and freedom from responsibility during my run is INVALUABLE!

Another amazing benefit of running is that my two oldest daughters (9 and 6) have started running with me and both have completed 5K races already! They have been inspired by watching me and participating in Girls on the Run through their school. There is nothing better than seeing the pride in your daughters’ eyes when they run across the finish line beaming with pride!

Do you think everyone can experience this benefit by giving a running a shot?

From what I understand, running is definitely not the activity for everyone, but some sort of physical activity that brings about these benefits is possible for everyone! Yoga, weight lifting, jazzercise, swimming … whatever it is that physically pushes the body and releases the endorphins. I would encourage everyone to find their activity that they enjoy that also produces these results.

Some people claim to just “hate” running, it’s not for them—how do you respond? Do you think some people are just innately runners while others aren’t? Or is it more of a learned enjoyment that develops over time?

I think MINDSET is everything. When people tell themselves (over and over again) that they “hate running” or that it “isn’t for them,” then they will hate running (#selffullfillingprophecy).  However I think ANYONE with an open mind, a positive attitude, and the appropriate running program for their current stage of health can enjoy and even LOVE running.

What is a common misconception about running that you think needs to be addressed?

My husband and I argue about how fast a person needs to run. When I started, I ran SO SLOW, that my My Fitness Pal app logged my “running” as “walking at a very,very, brisk pace.” So I personally think running looks different for different people at different stages—we need to stop worrying about how fast we go and start concentrating on the fact that we are moving forward!

Was there ever a time that running stopped serving you and you removed it from your routine for a period of time? What was the reason and how did you get back into again?

Life is a series of choices and peaks and valleys, so between school, jobs and kids, I have definitely had an on-again, off-again relationship with running. But that’s part of why I LOVE IT, because with very little effort and a pair of tennis shoes, I am right back “on the saddle” so to speak.

What are your tips for those who are just starting to add running to their exercise routine?

Find a good couch to 5K program. Don’t push yourself too hard (overachievers tend to hurt themselves quickly, and then quit altogether). Buy the right shoes. Reach out to your local Certified Athletic Trainers to find out where your deficiencies are so that you can work on the proper strength building and stretching regimes that will help prevent injuries.

Any insider tips for runners that you find especially helpful?

I have tight calves and weak glute muscles naturally (according to my athletic trainer), so I use a ProStretch at my standing desk at work at least a couple of times an hour to treat/prevent plantar fasciitis, and I try to do clamshell exercises a couple of times a week. And I personally rock out to a ridiculously diverse Spotify playlist including Broadway musicals, rap and Christian praise music while on long runs. You never know what I might be listening to.

There is a huge race culture, and it’s easy to experience FOMO when seeing all the pictures on social media of people carb loading and holding medals. Do you think it’s worthwhile for everyone to train for a race at some point? On the flipside, are there reasons not to or types of people who may not enjoy it?

I think this totally depends on your personality, for me, training for a race is a HUGE motivator, and I have to have a stretch goal. For example, my friend wanted us to run together and suggested that we do a 10K race. The problem was that it didn’t motivate me to train since I am confident in my ability to run 6 miles without working at it. So, we decided to do the 1/2 marathon which would REQUIRE me to train (unless I wanted to die). I personally love the social aspect of races, the excitement of the day, the cheers from crowds. All. the. things. I can totally see how these may all be detractors for others who hate crowds, are more introverted, and prefer exercising activities that are solo events. #youdoyou.

What is your running routine like now?

Currently I run in the evenings 2 to 3 times a week and then a longer run on Saturdays. I prefer to run outside if it is warm enough, but with unpredictable midwest weather (I live in Central Illinois), I am often relegated to the dreadmill at our local YMCA. I still love it though! We have a warm and welcoming environment, I always see people I know, and I can still escape the day-to-day by popping in my headphones with an upbeat playlist or interesting audio-book.

Erin is the founder of Be the Benchmark, dedicated to helping young girls become the best version of themselves. She hails from Champaign, IL where she and her husband are raising three amazing girls who are already making plans to change the world!

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