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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

The Many Benefits of Running

May 27, 2016 02:15PM ● By Ronda Alvey

On the Run

By Jordan Venema
Photo: Tamara Orth

Running. People either love it or hate, but like any race, the progression from either emotional state usually happens in only one direction. If you’ve ever hated running, you’ve probably never given it a fair shake, because most runners will tell you – they used to hate it, too.

Even the self-professed couch potato could be next year’s marathoner, because there’s just something transformative about running. Yeah, it’s a healthy hobby and all, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. Ask any avid runner and they’ll attempt to explain why – because like vegans and Crossfitters, runners love their thing – but ultimately, you’ll need to lace up your own shoes to find out. In the meantime, here’s a few reasons why running might be for you.

Easy Access: How easy is it get into running? Well, you can start right now. Seriously. Drop the magazine and go. A runner can be a lone wolf, a pack of one. There’s no waiting around for teammates, calling dibs on the open court. For runners, the world is their treadmill, and the only cost is a pair of sneaks.

“A good pair of running shoes is all you really need,” agrees Josh Escobedo, Mt. Whitney’s assistant coach for track and cross-country teams. “It’s your injury prevention,” he continues. A good quality pair of shoes costs about 120 bucks (maybe half that at discount retailers), but the cost pales in comparison to other hobbies and activities.

Quick Strides:  Unless you’re a prodigy, few things in life come easily or quickly, but even beginning runners can improve their pace and distance in just a matter of weeks.

“Start very light,” advises Escobedo. There’s no reason to leap into five or six miles immediately but, he adds, “the results come fairly quickly.” He’s seen people who’ve never run a mile in their life improve to four or five miles after a month. With discipline and training, even a new runner can be marathon-ready in just four months. 

Marissa Bebout, a manager at Sole 2 Soul, admits that while she didn’t exactly hate running long distances, she didn’t have a desire for it either. “Even a 5K was torture to me,” she laughs – until she tried it. 

“There’s a certain state of mind that comes from running long distances. You realize how high your potential can be. I never thought I’d run 10 miles for fun, and now I do that on a regular basis,” she says. “Everything that seemed hard before is much easier to do now.”

Better Health:  It may seem like an obvious statement: running is a healthy habit. Exercise is good for you. But running offers much more than just good cardio. 

Says Escobedo, “I don’t know how to explain it, and I haven’t seen research, but I wake up easier in the morning, I have more energy, my body craves healthier foods. I usually have a more positive outlook on the day.” 

Bebout agrees. “When I’m running, everything else falls into place,” adding that when she eats poorly, she runs poorly.

Maybe it’s the release of endorphins, or perhaps the power of positive thinking, but whatever the cause, runners seem to agree: it keeps them healthy and happy. 

Cool Community: That’s probably why runners go out of their way to run together: they keep good company. 

“There’s lots of groups to run with to hold you accountable,” says Bebout, “and a much larger network in Visalia than there ever was. All the runners you meet are really great people, and they want to see you succeed.”

Even in competitive cross-country, Escobedo says students, even among rival schools, support one another. “It’s known as a very individual sport but the team aspect is very alive. They work together, they encourage each other, and we all know the other teams.” In short, says Escobedo, “the run community is fantastic.” And really, that community is ready to welcome anybody who is willing to lace up their own shoes.  

A Runner’s Resource

Central Valley Running is THE Central Valley aggregate for every organized run between Sacramento and Bakersfield. Its calendar is constantly updated for runs and races throughout the Central Valley 

Since 1979, and picking up the pace ever since, Visalia Runners is a large community of runners that organizes races, running groups and other events. A $45 membership includes discounts on some local races and at retailers Sole 2 Soul and Total Nutrition.

Sole 2 Soul:

With three locations in the Central Valley (Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield), this retailer is a one-stop-shop for all your running needs: shoes, accessories, nutrition. Most importantly: they’re friendly and informative, and can size your foot better than Cinderella’s glass slipper. They even offer training programs, like the couch to 5K, couch to 10K, and couch to half-marathon.

Know your apps

There’s a plethora of running apps to track your distance and pace, and even offer tips. MapMyRun and Nike’s Running App lead the traditional pack, but for the outlandishly inspiring application, check out “Zombies, Run!”, which can turn even the most mundane run into a race for survival.


College of the Sequoias 

915 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia

While running loops can be repetitive, the laps at the College of the Siskiyous track provide an easy way to measure distance (four laps equal a mile), plus your feet will appreciate the cushy material.

Kaweah Oaks Preserve

29979 Road 182, Exeter

Just a 10-minute drive east of Visalia, the preserve’s multiple shaded trails offer a nice retreat from the suburbs and a moderate introduction to trail running.

The Orchards

Here in the Central Valley, there’s no shortage of fields to choose from – be respectful of private property, of course, but most farmers won’t mind a solo runner enjoying the shade of an orchard.

Rocky Hill Drive (off 65) and Yokohl Drive (off 198)

These scenic roads will take you over and behind Rocky Hill, but you can avoid the hill altogether (if you don’t want the challenge) and just enjoy the rolling hillsides further up Yokohl Valley.