Treadmills offer a way to run that is always safe, well lit, and 68 degrees. They provide an area that is entirely mine, no sharing required. I no longer need to meander around mommy joggers with their enormous strollers. I never have to red-rover my way through social walkers, chatting three abreast. There are no dogs, or gum, or puddles. It’s a 3′ x 6′ space free of hazards or distractions.
Indoor running also allows a higher level of spontaneity. Rather than commit in advance to a three, five, or seven mile loop, I can determine in real time what kind of run I want to make it. If I’m feeling strong and light, I can increase my speed with the touch of a button, or let the clock continue to run as I extend my miles. Hills and elevation changes are my own creation, and if I ever feel exhausted or hurt, I just step off. There’s no fear of being stranded or injured miles away from home. When I need to be done, the run is over, no questions asked.
Even competition is minimized, as each runner in the row looks straight ahead, concerned only with his or her own performance. The run is entirely personal. (Granted, healthy competition has its advantages. When I was feeling sluggish and tempted to quit on a long training run a few years ago, I was passed by a 70-year-old in a GRANDMAS TRI HARDER shirt. After that, I couldn’t notfinish the run. Shame is one hell of a motivator).
I certainly won’t be eliminating outdoor running anytime soon. The sunshine, the fresh air, the scenery, the using-your-legs-to-propel-your-body-forward-rather-than-letting-the-treadmill-belt-pull-them-back — these are all important and beneficial aspects of running. Battling the elements is part of the reason we runners are so proud of our sport, and I have no intention of running exclusively in a sterile environment. But for the days when the great outdoors is just more than I can handle, it’s nice to have a safe place to run.