Thinking while running

Running and thinking are interlinked activities, but they revolve around different logics: at least for me. Often when I go out for a run I have some form of idea of how far, or how fast, and where I will run. Most of the time, I would like to say 95 percent of the time, I run according to my plan. A short run in the nearby forest, or a long run on the countryside, or around town. Sometimes I’ll go for an interval run, but not so often because I don’t like it before I do it but always after; and I seem not to ever learn that it is that way. My running is, so to speak, a planned activity.

I always think when I run. I guess that I always think. But I could never plan my thinking the way I plan my running. Many times a good run can lead to a solution of a problem that has been haunting me for some time. There are certainly good biological explanations to this, like that the pre-frontal and limbic regions of the brain spew out endorphins which make you euphoric, and the body pumps out endocannabinoids which make you calm.

Although I have the knowledge and the experience of these effects of running, I can’t plan for a solution to a problem. As a matter of fact, most of the time I can’t, even in advance, decide to indulge and digest a certain particular problem during my daily run. The problem presents themselves when they do, as well as the solutions.

I’ll guess that I’m not alone. Most of us plan our run, distance and stride, and if some clever thoughts announce themselves during the run we see it as a bonus. We might say:

“Oh I had such a good run this morning. You know what we have been talking about last week? I know how we should go about it”

But there are some runners that just go out for a run. Not having decided how far and how long they will run that day. I wonder if such approach to running could create openings for a more planed thinking while running?



And my name is Lars. I live in Sweden, in the fifth largest city, Linköping, which has around 150,000 inhabitants. So to be referred to as one of the largest cities in the country is indubitably dubious. In some countries in the world one would probably not say the words ‘150,000’ and ‘largest’ in the same sentence, if you’re not making a point saying “well, it’s not the largest city we have in the country, but it is nice”. But in a Swedish context it all makes sense. Linköping have many advantages. You can ride your bike everywhere, and rush hour is, yes, let’s say manageable. I live there with my significant other, and two children. One of the biggest problems with Linköping is that it is not by the sea, as Kalmar is, where I grew up. I’m in my forties, 43 turning 44.

I’m like David: interested in philosophy. But unlike him I haven’t studied philosophy. However, I wrote my PhD thesis inspired by the philosopher Wittgenstein. So in some senses I have a relation to philosophy, but mainly to ordinary everyday philosophy. I’m quite curious, and I have a tendency to think a lot.

Indubitable. This is a crucial word for this blog, because it relates to the first time I met David. It was at a conference at Roehampton University, England, in September 2005. I was presenting a paper on a highfalutin subject: Theoretical and Genuine Doubts on Moral Education. And I had to speak English, and I was a bit nervous. Everything turned out okay, I guess. Somehow David and I started to talk after my presentation; about what I can’t remember. The one thing that I do remember is that I asked David if he understood my English. Yes, it was all good, he said; but when you said undoubtable, perhaps you meant indubitable. I remember that I genuinely appreciated it.

And, I like to run. Or, I don’t know if that is all true, but I run. Every day. It started with a slightly broken meniscus. The knee specialist told me that it would have to be either surgery, or to wait and see what happens. I choose to wait. Then I read an article in Corren, the daily newspaper in Linköping, about a man of my age who had a similar condition. He was recommended to run shorter distances, but more often. Now he runs every day. It seemed preposterous to me. We all know that it is important to have a good rest between the workouts, I thought. But why not give it go. I decided to start with one week, at the end of April 2014. Now I have been running every day for 22 months. It’s not always fun, but I will come back to this later on. Today I had a run in Kigali in Rwanda, the land of the thousand hills. As a runner, I would like to add that there are pros and cons with that type of terrain.


My name is David. I am a 46 (very soon to be 47) year old man from the northwest of England. I was born in Manchester and have lived most of my life in Lancashire. I live with my partner, Lawrence. Professionally I am a consultant in management and higher education, specialising in flexible learning and aspects of change and values in organisations – more details are available here: David Mossley Consulting.

Since I was a child I have had an interest in philosophy and how the concepts and ideas that we take for granted (or are unaware of altogether) structure how we think, talk and act in the world and with each other. At school I had a talent for science, particularly biology, but I chose to study philosophy at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, eventually gaining a PhD in 1997 with a thesis on topics in the philosophy of biology. I also have management qualifications including an MBA; and I spend a lot of time now thinking and reading about how our understanding of work, business and management is underpinned by ideas about human nature, evolving organisations, social being and rational action, as well as the ethical aspects of business life.

I have never been particularly sporty, but I have always tried to keep myself reasonably fit. I did not learn to drive a car until quite recently and used to cycle a great deal simply to get about. Around ten years ago I cycled from my home in Lancashire to visit a friend in Bristol, over 200 miles away and covered the distance in under two days. About five years ago, however, I realised I was getting lazy and unhealthy in my habits, so I decided to take up running. At first it was awful. I found I was actually rather less fit than I thought I was. Simply running the half mile or so to the next village left me feeling sick and unwell. Since then I have improved somewhat. I have had a number of injuries, as all runners do, including tendonitis in my left foot, bursitis in my hips and right knee, and a badly sprained ankle from a fall while running in the dark. However, I persevered and annually run the Great Manchester Run, 10k, raising money for Mind, the Mental Health Charity. This year the GMR falls in May; but I have also signed up for my first half-marathon in Southport in July and my first full marathon in Chester in October. (Somewhere in the back of my mind is a plan to run a 50 mile ultra for my fiftieth birthday, but that might be a crazy thought!)

I recently started using Mapmyrun again after a break and will record my runs there. Today I ran 7.3km at lunchtime.

This blog was the idea of my friend, Lars. It seemed to me an excellent thing to do. I spend a lot of time thinking about life and work and politics and the world while out running so it will be interesting to see how our conversation evolves here. I am looking forward to it. 🙂