I Hate Running and You Can Too

How to Get Started, Keep Going, and Make Sense of an Irrational Passion


By Brendan Leonard

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BRENDAN LEONARD HATES RUNNING. He hates it so much that he once logged fifty-two marathon-length runs in fifty-two weeks. Now he’s sharing everything he’s learned about the sport so that you can hate it too.

Packed with wisdom, humor, attitude, tips, and quotes—and more than sixty illuminating charts—I Hate Running and You Can Too delivers a powerful message of motivation from a truly relatable mentor.

Leonard nails the love-hate relationship most runners have with the sport. He knows the difficulty of getting off the couch, teaches us to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, embraces the mix of running with walking. And he shares all that he’s learned—celebrating the mantra of “Easy, light, smooth, and fast,” observing that any body that runs is a runner’s body.

Plus Leonard knows all the practical stuff, from training methods to advice for when you hit a setback or get injured. Even the answer to that big question a lot of runners occasionally ask: Why? Easy: Running helps us understand commitment, develop patience, discover self-discipline, find mental toughness, and prove to ourselves that we can do something demanding. And, of course, burn off that extra serving of nachos.


1. Start Small, Start Now

Start small, start now. This is much better than, "start big, start later." One advantage is that you don't have to start perfect. You can merely start.

—Seth Godin

Alex Honnold is famous for climbing the sheer face of Yosemite's 3,000-foot El Capitan without a rope. He is significantly less famous for gently, perhaps even unintentionally, nudging his mother, Dierdre Wolownick, from running zero miles per week at age fifty-five to becoming a marathon runner. In her memoir, The Sharp End of Life, Wolownick recalls her evening walk spontaneously turning into a mile-long run with the family dog. She arrived home to tell her son about it. He shrugged and said, "Cool. If you can do one, you can do one and a half." A few nights later, after she reported to Alex that she and the dog had just run a mile and a half, he responded: "Cool. If you can do a mile and a half, you can do two."

After progressing to 2 miles, then 3, she ran her first 10K in jeans and a flannel shirt. Just over a year later, after training for twenty weeks, she ran her first marathon. Wolownick, with no intention to run really long distances in her fifties, started small and eventually went big.

More than half a million people in the United States finish a marathon each year. Almost none of those people do it without running a bunch of miles in the months beforehand. At some point, every person was running zero miles per week. And then they ran one mile a few times, and eventually decided they could run a mile and a half. And so on. A long race, whether your definition of "long" is 6.2 miles or 100 miles, starts with running (or walking) a much shorter distance, one time. And then doing it again. And again. You do a small thing once, twice, three times, and you start stacking those small things on top of one another, or depositing them in a metaphorical account, and they start to add up.

Human beings generally suck at keeping New Year's resolutions because we often make them too big and too abrupt, and after a week or so, we hit a bump in the road, get discouraged, and abandon our big new change altogether. We find that our extreme new diet is hard to stick with, or our new exercise routine increases our time at the gym 1,000 percent over the previous year, or that as it turns out, eating raw kale three times a day, seven days a week, just isn't bringing us happiness after all. "New year, new you" is a ridiculous, almost always unattainable concept (unless you're in the FBI's Witness Protection Program, in which case you have reason to be way more optimistic about the idea of a 100 percent "new you"). "New year, gradually improving you" is way more realistic—and it allows you to slowly grow into something and keep going, as opposed to taking on a difficult, complete transformation, and giving up after a few weeks.

So wherever you're starting on your progression to running some irrational distance, whether it's 6 miles or 26.2 miles, start with something rational. As Leo Babauta, creator of the Zen Habits blog, puts it, "Make it so easy you can't say no."

2. Walking Is Running

I've been on the U.S. Olympic Team and have run for more than 50 years, and I didn't know that there was a running rule book that excludes walking.

—Jeff Galloway, when someone says, "If you take walk breaks, you're not a real runner," The Run-Walk-Run Method

In preparing to run my first marathon in 2006, I made a promise to myself: No matter what, I would run every step of the race. It didn't have to be fast, but I wanted to get to the finish line knowing I had actually "run a marathon."

And I stuck with it. Until mile 5, when I tried to jog through a water station, grab a 6-ounce cup of water, and drink it without breaking my stride. About half of the water spilled onto my face and down my shirt. I amended my strategy: I would run every step of the race, except when drinking cups of water and/or sports drinks, which were served every 5 miles.

From then on, I ran every step of the race, except for the 100 feet or so when I was grabbing a cup of water from an aid station. This strategy worked a lot better than my original plan, as I was able to actually consume fluids instead of dumping them onto my shirt, where they could not be absorbed into my body.

About 3 miles from the end of the course, when everyone in the race had spread out and I was running mostly alone and wondering if the finish line would ever appear, a runner passed me. About 150 feet ahead of me, she stopped jogging and slowed to a walk. I caught up to her and passed her. A few hundred feet later, she passed me again, and a while later, slowed to a walk again. We continued this pattern for a while. She was walking and running, and I was still determined to run the whole thing.

Who was right? Both of us. More than a decade later, I can't remember if she finished ahead of me, or if I finished ahead of her. How much either of us walked or ran didn't matter then, and it doesn't matter now.

I didn't know it at the time, but walking is a big part of a lot of people's marathon strategies. They run three minutes, then walk one minute, then repeat. Or they run four minutes, then walk one minute, then repeat. Or they run one minute, walk the next minute, and continue until they're done with the race, or some other version of this strategy, which was popularized by Jeff Galloway, Olympian, coach, and author, and has since been used by thousands of runners.


  • “Filled with empathy, understanding, and enthusiasm, I Hate Running and You Can Too made us love running more than ever and gave us bonus love
    for charts that make you laugh until your stomach hurts.”
    —Megan Roche, MD, and David Roche, authors of The Happy Runner and coaches whose athletes have won more than twenty U.S. national championship races

    “As the author of Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog, I assumed I’d never run again. Then I read chapter two.”
    —Grant Petersen, author and founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works

    “Brendan has a mad genius way to convey the mundane aspects of running. No matter if you’re a total newbie or veteran runner, this book just might make you run a little farther or faster and have a laugh while doing it!”
    —Scott Jurek, seven-time champion of the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run and New York Times bestselling author of Eat Run

On Sale
Mar 16, 2021
Page Count
160 pages

Brendan Leonard

Brendan Leonard

About the Author

Brendan Leonard has completed more than a dozen organized ultramarathons and marathons, including three of the most difficult 100-mile trail races in America. In 2019, he set out to complete 52 marathon-distance runs in 52 weeks, and survived, while having fun part of the time. Leonard is a columnist at Outside, and his writing has appeared in Runner’s World, National Geographic Adventure, Climbing, and Alpinist and on CNN.com and in dozens of other publications. He directed the 2017 short film How to Run 100 Miles, which screened at film festivals in more than 20 countries and on six continents and was viewed more than 5 million times online. He is the author of Surviving the Great Outdoors and the coauthor of The Camping Life. He lives in Denver, Colorado. Find him on Instagram at @semi_rad.

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