National Running Day isn’t exactly a holiday. But a day meant to inspire people to get moving is perfectly good reason to celebrate.

For the last five years, running enthusiasts, spearheaded by the 55-year-old New York Road Runners, have celebrated National Running Day — which this year takes place on Wednesday — in hopes of inspiring non-runners to give distance running a chance.

Those who already embrace the sport will celebrate in a variety of ways this year. Local running stores have organized runs, and they’re offering prize giveaways and discounts on merchandise. Race directors across the country are also offering discounts on entry fees if participants sign up Wednesday. (Rock 'n' Roll Marathons are $20 off on National Running Day.)

But the largest, maybe the most meaningful observances will come from individual runners who just get out and run. Some organizers have even offered a downloadable race bib to runners who want to make their celebration a bit more festive and official. The bibs simply say, “I run…” and then runners can fill in why they choose to run.

Why people choose to run varies from practical (losing weight) to emotional (stress relief). In the last month there have been at least two studies that link cognitive abilities and a child’s performance in the classroom with physical activity.

An article in The New York Times detailing one of the studies said, “Scientists from the National Institute on Aging sought to determine whether changes in muscles then initiated changes in the brain. And as it turned out, muscles did affect the mind.”

A more recent article in The New York Times took a look at a different study that examined the performance of grade school children. Like the study that involved mice, it showed that children who were more active during the day were better able to focus, perform tasks quicker and recall information more accurately.

Asked how they would celebrate National Running Day, most runners said they would commemorate the occasion by simply appreciating the fact that they are able to participate in the sport. As for non-runners, here are some excuses and ways to overcome them:

Excuse No. 1 — I don’t run because I don’t have enough time.

Running can help you live a longer, healthier, more enjoyable life. Giving your health a few minutes seems like a worthwhile endeavor. And consider this quote: “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.” — Charles Buxton, English writer, philanthropist and politician.

Excuse No. 2 — I don’t run because it’s boring.

I started running on a treadmill after a colleague told me he lost weight walking on the treadmill and watching television. I tried it, and distraction did help me not focus on the clock or the distance. As you become more fit, running becomes soothing, relaxing and engaging — especially when you run outside. And finally, being alone with your thoughts, while exercising, turns out to be pretty therapeutic.

Excuse No. 3 — I’m scared to run alone and I can’t find anyone to run with me.

Not having friends of family to exercise with can be difficult. It’s easier to stick to a fitness plan if you have company. But finding a running group has never been easier thanks to local running stores and social media. There are groups in every corner of Utah that would be glad to welcome new members.

Excuse No. 4 — Running is bad for your knees and/or joints.

There is much disagreement on whether or not this is true, or whether it is simply a reality for some people. I know runners who’ve put down regular mileage for decades and never had knee problems. I know people who suffer every time they run. If you don’t have pain, you don’t have a problem. But just to be safe, mix it up. Ride a bike, go for a swim, try a class, commit to yoga — and don’t make excuses for problems that don’t exist.

Excuse No. 5 — I don’t run because it’s expensive.

A nice pair of real running shoes costs about $80-100. You can wear them safely for about 300-400 miles. It’s cheaper than any gym membership, and just about any other sport you can think of. Once you get hooked, however, you may want all the gear and gadgets that do make the experience more enjoyable.

Excuse No. 6 — I don’t like to run.

This is probably the most common and most difficult to argue with. I’m not one to spend time doing things I don’t enjoy. But running isn’t like any other activity I’ve ever engaged in. It’s pushing past the pain, the mental barriers, the initial suffering that brings the reward. It’s the commitment to training that changes how you feel about the sport. If you can bring yourself to do it a few times, it will change you in more ways than you ever imagined.

The beauty of running is how it teaches you to navigate life with more courage, grace and beauty. You may start out hoping to drop a few pounds. But if you let running work its magic, you’ll find it will transform far more than your waistline.

In celebration of National Running Day, the Deseret News Classic Marathon is giving away an entry to the 2013 10K and new half marathon. To win the entry, email me at adonaldson@deseretnews.com and tell me why you deserve to run for free on July 24, 2013.

Happy Running!

Twitter: adonsports

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com