“Angry running” and running as running away


The first time I did it I was just twelve years old. The family dog had been hit by a car and wasn’t going to live. I started crying and I left the house in the dark and hit the streets. I slammed the door behind me. I ran and walked and ran and then walked some more into the night. I don’t know that I felt better in the end but I was tired enough to sleep.


Later, during high school, it was my go to “argument ending” move when someone insisted I keep talking about something that was upsetting me. Running=running away.

On a few occasions, back when I drank, there might have been alcohol involved in some of my ‘angry running.’ More than once I’ve run home barefoot from parties, carrying my shoes or abandoning them in the bushes. “Sam’s run off in a sprightly fashion, ” reported one friend to another as they walked behind me to make sure I didn’t get into too much trouble. In addition to a hangover, I had dirty, sore feet the next day.

I ran as well the night my sister died.

Luckily I’ve never been tempted by sad, angry driving and bike riding. Somehow, I’ve always known that wouldn’t end well. There’s no one you can hurt with running.


The other night I was upset and again my first impulse was to run.

I’m not sure how to think about ‘angry running.’ Yes, better than drinking. Probably better than ‘angry eating’ though when I’m upset, I can’t eat anyway.

And I don’t only run when angry. I run for all sorts of reasons.

I ran the morning I was getting married because, well, stress but it was happy stress. To my amusement some family members in the country–we were getting married on the family farm–were actually worried I was running away. No one ran recreationally there then.

But back to the point of this post, I’m not sure how emotionally healthy ‘angry running’ is. We all praise it–see the various images and motivational sayings in the post–but is it really a good thing?

When I was running seriously–before my first stress fracture, before my first knee injury, before I discovered road cycling–I was training with my friend M who said all runners have troubles. It’s why they run. Contrary to the popular line about emotional eating, he said that he was raised to think that happy people are chubby and vice versa. He said that he never ran far or fast when he was happy in a relationship. Instead it was anger and loneliness that got him out the door and made him punish himself by running fast.

I don’t do it often enough to worry about. And I think my friend M is wrong. Some of the happiest people I know are runners. But I’m still wondering.

What do you think about angry running? Do you you do it? Does it help? Is it a healthy impulse?


20 thoughts on ““Angry running” and running as running away

  1. Oh I definitely angry run on occasion. For me it helps metabolize all my body’s stress response. Running angry or sad or stressed helps me keep the Fight or Flight response to ashore time. I think clearer afterwards, it doesn’t hurt anyone, including me.
    When I practice karate I found roundhouse kicks on the bag were also good rage channel moments.
    I don’t think we give ourselves permission very often to rage about. anger is a secondary emotion so for me I need to go through my anger to understand the underlying cause.

  2. Intense emotional experiences alter our body chemistry in ways that can be bad for us, and intense but safe movement of our body can help balance it again. I don’t even see it as “running away”, but as a way of taking care of ourselves.

    1. That’s unlikely in my case. I don’t generally stay angry. Also, I can’t run that far!

  3. I agree with Natalie and Asuksi. When anger is accepted as a normal aspect of our emotional spectrum, the focus becomes on managing the overwhelm of the initial stress response of anger and not getting rid of feeling the feeling. I think running, moving of any kind really, is a healthy helper for getting over that initial hurdle. It doesn’t replace coming back to the issues later though, especially if there seems to be a pattern. Running has the added benefit of providing those happy hormones which can help with a better mindset at the back end.

    1. That’s true. Except in the drinking + angry running cases, it’s not like I got back and ignored the thing that made me sad/angry. Usually it allows me to cool down enough to deal with it. What I hate is being in a situation where I can’t escape and let off steam before I talk about things. Emotion, words said, regret, etc.

  4. Me too. The worst thing is for others to insist that you stay in the angry dynamic with them in that moment. Nothing good comes of it. Good things do come from running it off, however.

  5. Angry running is healthy, because when you are running you relieve the stress that’s inside you..And after that you feel better, calm, and generally you are getting in the normal state, before the stress and the angriness.
    Don’t hold the stress inside ! So angry people, just go and run!

  6. I don’t think I’ve ever tried angry running. I’m more likely to throw something and weep. But maybe I’ll try it. It may not be the most healthy response but it’s a better alternative and, like throwing stuff, I can see it having a cathartic effect.

    1. With me it’s not so much trying it, as it is a pretty strong urge, instinct. I’ve also tried throwing things. Running feels better and is less destructive. I recommend trying it.

  7. I am in limbo here. I feel that it is a good response in a way. But, when your first response is to not deal with it and run, I think that is possibly leading to problems. I am a person that says what I feel, most of the time. So , when I am angry, I talk about…then go exercise. The running is helping you deal with it physically, but is it helping mentally or emotionally? It may for the moment, but the problem or the thing that makes you angry is still there to deal with. This raises some good questions. Great read, thank you for sharing.

    1. Yeah. I’m not sure either. I do know when I’m really upset it calms me down and helps me sleep. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about whatever is it that’s bothering me. I’m too angry, I’d say things I regret, and then running first makes for better conversation. But with you I worry sometimes that it’s running away.

    2. And I will say that I’ve a tough run of it, lots of death and illness in the family… parents, sibling, family pets. And running is obviously healthier than drinking.

  8. I don’t run – my knees and feet don’t like it. I kick and punch…the speed-bag and ‘hanging duffel’ get a lot of use and abuse, LOL

  9. I have done drunk running and I have done angry throwing (a UPS at work last year) and I have done depressed running but I don’t think I have ever done angry running. There is some science (somewhere) that says that the rhythmic nature of long distance running (and probably cycling), is good for keeping depression at bay. I know my Eeyore-like outlook on life is abated when I am running regularly. The release of endorphins is probably likewise good for soothing anger and frustration.

Comments are closed.