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Newsman: Sir, why are you running?
There's a bug about running that you catch. It could be the exhilaration of propelling your body through space, or the pounding on the ground that sends sensation up your bones all the way to the pleasure centers in your brain, or it could simply be the sheer satisfaction of having done something good for yourself. Whatever it is, running can be addictive. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi might describe the experience of running as "flow," the state of mind in which you are fully immersed in what you are doing. Or it could be what William Glasser calls, "positive addiction," where you perform a repetitive activity without self-criticism or judgment that has a beneficial effect on your mind and body.
What are the health benefits of running?
The benefits of vigorous exercise are well described. The American College of Sports Medicine Position Statement on Exercise is a document chock-full of studies proving that vigorous exercise yields plenty of health benefits. One of the major points of the position statement is that there is a dose response to exercise; that is, the more you do, or the harder you do it, the more benefit you accrue. But this point is not to discount moderate exercise. You get plenty of benefit from moderate exercise, it's just that vigorous exercise seems to accrue even more benefit. The ACSM report makes it clear that "many significant health benefits are achieved by going from a sedentary state to a minimal level of physical activity; [but] programs involving higher intensities and/or greater frequency/durations provide additional benefits. For example, it was shown in one study that individuals who ran more than 50 miles per week had significantly greater increases in HDL cholesterol (the good fat) and significantly greater decreases in body fat, triglyceride levels, and the risk of coronary heart disease than individuals who ran less than 10 miles per week. In addition, the long-distance runners had a nearly 50% reduction in high blood pressure and more than a 50% reduction in the use of medications to lower blood pressure and plasma cholesterol levels."