Stop telling me to stop running

Well-meaning co-workers, un-informed family members, doctors who just don’t have a clue, strangers on the street…

What do these people have in common? They’ve all told me running isn’t good for the body. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences (Ali most recently), so you know how frustrating it can be. And it puts us in a tough spot – do we bite our tongues and let the comments slide? Or try to explain that, actually, running is a pretty healthy (both physically AND mentally) thing to be doing?

I think a lot of the negative comments about my running are generally well-intended. My non-running friends and family (and I suppose strangers?) want me to live a healthy and happy life, not suffer with arthritis, injury, or heatstroke. However, as non-runners, I think they’re often misinformed. Sure, if you’re overweight or have had knee problems in the past, running can aggravate your joints and yes, it IS a high impact activity, but that doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. And you’ve gotta be careful when the heat and humidity are high – but a well-conditioned runner will not perish just because it’s the summer.

In addition to the merely misinformed, I think there’s also a contingent of nay-sayers that are jealous of our relationship with the sport. Envious of our calf muscles, our motivation for early morning miles,  and racing accomplishments. And perhaps, that jealousy causes them to project their negativity on to us. In all honesty, I don’t know why people say the things they do, but lately it’s really been pissing me off. I recently had my dentist AND an another M.D. tell me to quit running for the sake of my hips and knees. A few months back, I was talking to my doctor about depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder (I have a really tough time with my mood in the Winter and Early Spring) and he asked me about my daily routine. I told him how much running helps me – it allows me to spend time with friends, gives me an endorphin high, increases my self-esteem, and stick with a healthy lifestyle. After listening to me talk, he said “You’re destroying your knees and hips” – “You should probably stop running and take up swimming or something like that.” His solution? A high dosage of anti-depressants that ended up makings things worse. Maybe there was some major miscommunication here, but I was totally appalled at his lack of understanding. Did he actually tell me to stop doing the ONE THING that makes me feel better? Yeah. I left that doctor’s office and will not be making a return appointment.

I’m not saying my knees never get achy or I’m immune to injury. It’s likely that we’ll all experience some set-back in the course of our running careers, but that doesn’t mean we should quit all together and resign ourselves to swimming laps only. In fact, a recent study recently published by NPR actually disproves the myth that running harms your knees.

David Felson, a researcher from Boston University School of Medicine was quoted as saying – “We know from many long-term studies that running doesn’t appear to cause much damage to the knees,” he says. “When we look at people with knee arthritis, we don’t find much of a previous history of running, and when we look at runners and follow them over time, we don’t find that their risk of developing osteoarthritis is any more than expected.” Both types of studies agree, says Felson, that recreational running doesn’t increase the risk of arthritis.”

And a Swedish study even suggests that running can stimulate cartilage repair in the knees and joints!

And the funny thing is – the more someone tells me NOT to do something, the more I’m going to want to do it.

My summer internship boss told me I wouldn’t last a season on a D3 cross-country and track team. I lasted the entire 4 years, thankyouverymuch.

Neighbors and family friends predicted my first post-college job and a move to NYC would kill my mileage. Oh hey, actually I joined a running club and ran 3 marathons.

You say that the weather is too hot? Too rainy? Too cold? That’s just gonna make me want to get out there and prove you wrong.

Thankfully I have a good General Practitioner these days (he’s a triathlete himself!) and a strong support network of runner friends who don’t think I’m causing bodily harm. But it still incites me when I hear stories of other runners being told by their doctors to quit running. I might just print out a few dozen copies of that NPR article and start passing them around.

So until my legs fall off, I’ll be on the road.

How do you deal with negative comments about your running? Do you try to explain why you do it (and why you like it!) or do you keep mum?


  • This post resonated with me so much when I first read it, but I didn’t get a chance to comment til now. As someone who started running and ran for a few years as a vegan, I have put up with double the criticism on this front. So many doctors, family members, friends, and virtual strangers told me that if my running wasn’t going to kill me, my veganism would — and vice versa. Ultimately, no one knows a body like the person who owns it. We need to listen to ourselves, push ourselves in healthy ways, and cut ourselves slack when we’re tempted to push too far. Maintaining balance is a human condition; the efforts of runners are just a little more on display. But I personally think we’re pretty good at it. So don’t listen to the naysayers — do what’s right for you and leave them in the dust.

  • MRab

    Hi Megan! I love this post especially the part about how running doesn’t directly harm your knees. I was injured a few months ago and tore a ligament. My GP actually encouraged me to keep running after a month once my injury was healed. He was actually very supportive of my active lifestyle. Anyway, I love your blog btw. Thanks for all the advice. 🙂

  • Sorry I’m so behind on this post! I found you from Ali on the Run!! To that I have to say that there will always be naysayers. I have actually broken off friendships with people who were not supportive and/or overly critical. It’s just not worth it to have that type of negative energy in your life. It is sad, actually that in this day and age people (especially women) cannot support each other in their endeavors. All I can say to that is keep doing what you’re doing. Hopefully you have a support system of running friends, buddies, and bloggers to encourage you and keep you accountable. That has definitely helped me. Continue to do what you love and forget the rest!

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