Running Engages All Five Senses

Did you know that running engages all five of your senses? I found this out on a run, of course. I was thinking about my next blog entry while on a recent run. Here in California, we have had the most unseasonable weather. We started the month of December, 2013 with record breaking cold weather.  Californians were then given three solid weeks of record highs. Our temps were in the mid to upper 60’s by the end of 2013. We hit in the 70 degree mark in January, 2014. This strange weather got me thinking.

Our senses keep us out of danger, allow us to enjoy our foods, enable us to enjoy other people’s touch, afford us the ability to view the most beautiful sunsets or sunrises and give us the chance to hear our childrens’ laughter. We are given these senses for many reasons. It is rare that one can experience all senses at once.  However, running allows us a wonderful opportunity to do just that.

Sight – We use our sense of sight to see where we are going, obviously. We need our sight to avoid bumps or change of grade in the road. We avoid roots and rocks on our trails. We avoid running into other runners or trees because of the two eyes that we were born with. But, how would it be if you did not have your sense of sight?  During my journey at the New York Marathon on November 3, 2013 and at the California International Marathon on December 8, 2013, I saw many sight impaired runners. They were being led so beautifully by runners who were their guide. I was in awe at these runners. Their guide made it appear as if their job was effortless. I never did get close enough to hear the conversations between the two runners, but I did hear chatter between them, so I can only imagine it was a conversation full of praise and direction.

Listening (Hearing) – We listen to the sounds around us on our runs. Some of us, myself included, use music during our training runs. More often than not, I run without music. I like to listen to my footsteps. I listen to my breathing. I listen to the birds in the trees. I listen for cars and bicyclists. I hear other people’s conversations. I listen. During races, it is so important to listen. Listen to the voices of the spectators who came out to cheer you, mostly strangers cheering for strangers.  Wishing someone goodwill when you don’t even know that person, is a great gesture of humanity. Listening for the race officials, should they need to divert your race course, is imperative.  The need to hear other runners is also important. Runners run races for many reasons. For some running a race is to capture that Personal Record that eludes them. For others it is to run for a reason that is dear to them. Yet, for others it is a social outing and a chance to not worry about anything but the task at hand. However, one must remember that there are many runners out there and when in a race environment, hearing a fellow runner trying to pass, is important. Like with traffic, faster runners pass on the left. Listen for those runners coming up from behind you.  The best sound in the world though, is the one of your family telling you how wonderful you did and how proud they are of you.

Smell – This is a loaded topic for runners as there are all sorts of smells that we are introduced to both during our training runs and during race day. We are introduced to the smells of the earth as we run along our favorite trails. We smell the greenery as it changes with the seasons. In the fall, we smell the pungent odors of foliage changing from life to dormancy.  Spring fills nostrils with  flowery scents and many of us sneeze our way through our runs. Often during races, we smell our race mates as they huff and puff through their miles like we are. Often we think it is others, but then realize that the scent we smell is ourselves. Our sense of smell brings us the sense of being alive during our run. We smell the asphalt. We smell the trail. The odors make us feel one with the part of the world on which we are running.

Taste – Taste is a sense that is predominant during a run. We taste the form of fueling we choose. For me, it is either Chocolate Outrage or Salted Caramel Gu. I taste the sweetness of the paste that I am ingesting and I realize that it is the Gu that will get me through another 4 or 5 miles. My glycogen levels will not take a big hit because I have learned how to fuel while running long distance. We taste the hydration of our choice. The cool and slightly salty electrolyte replacement drink gives us the stabilizing hit we need. Learning how to balance that “hit” will ensure a productive and safe run. There is also the occasional unplanned taste of the flying protein you were not expecting to arrive in your open mouth. Those protein morsels can hinder your pace and also engage your gag reflex.

Touch – Touch is one of the biggest senses that we engage during running. It is the feeling of running your hand across your forehead to wipe the sweat that is beginning to grow on your brow. It is the stickiness of the sweat that has dried on your hand.  It is the grit on your jawline from the salt that has dried on your skin.  It is the trickle of water that you wipe from your mouth as you try to drink from your fuel belt on the run. It is the reaching for the Gu pack that you know you put somewhere in your pocket, but somehow can’t seem to find it. It is that same Gu pack that you try to open with fingers that have turned to sausages because the blood flow has gone to your extremities. It is the touch that you receive when you cross that finish line from the volunteer who hands you your medal and pats you on the back. It is the earned hug from your loved ones for a job well done no matter what your finish time may be.  It is the tear you feel that invariably escapes your eye each and every time you cross that finish line.  It is the feeling of another accomplishment that is completely yours as you hold that medal in your hand or feel the weight of it on your chest.

No matter what order they arrive, you will notice that your five senses are engaged during a run. Try to make a list of what you experience on your run. Enjoy the feeling of being alive. Enjoy the run.  Experience the run.

Thank you, Women Races ( for including me among your #pacesetters program.  I am deeply and truly honored.