I am 38 years old, and for 37.5 of those years, I have hated running.
Hated. It. To the point where I wanted to smack all the runners who rhapsodize about how easy it is to just throw on their sneakers and go, or surreptitiously trip the skinny creatures in their perfect frickin’ running gear as they bound by me like gazelles, loping along on their exquisitely defined Achilles tendons. It drove me nutty, and still does, that I could swim laps, play volleyball, or walk for hours and not get the same respect as the revered runner.
Yet for some reason currently unbeknownst to me, moving to Boston has changed some fundamental truths in my life. One is that I actually enjoy cooking, which I still can’t quite make sense of, and 2 – apparently, is that I have “taken up” running.
I wouldn’t say I love it. But I would say my feelings of hatred have softened. Or maybe they haven’t since I still swear like a sailor in my head as I run, because it is not pleasant to feel your joints jar and your calves cramp and your breath wheeze and sweat pool in the creases of your arms. Runner’s high? A vicious, vicious myth as far as I’m concerned.
So why have I managed to get to a point where I am actually looking forward to running my first 5K race on Saturday? I have no earthly idea. It’s messed up. I guess the only way to say it is that I’ve become a little addicted, not to the physical act of running, but all that it stands for. The respect I get, the sheer JOY of walking after running, the sense of accomplishment. The hope that all this running will HAVE to translate to my waistline at some point, and if it doesn’t, well, at least I feel less guilty when I eat a hamburger.
Anyway, introspection aside, if you are a non-runner who’s thinking about running, or just starting out, here are some of my tips.
Tip #1: Find a buddy to run with. Someone to be in your ear/head daring you to wuss out. I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason I am still running (thanks, Nicole!). We’ve even gotten to the point where our paces can be different and we’re still good. Because really, what a buddy does is keep you from talking yourself out of starting. If you can’t find a buddy, a good podcast is a distant second; it won’t provide silent competitive motivation but might keep you from getting bored.
Tip #2: Don’t stress about gear, but get good shoes! My old New Balance sneakers gave out on me almost overnight a few weeks back, and I nearly wept at the pain – seriously, there were shooting pains in my feet, and that sucks. As for gear – I have no bloody clue. I know we should have some sort of “moisture wicking” material but damned if I know where to start. Layers are good; that’s about all I know and I’ve been doing this for 8 weeks now.
Tip #3: Speaking of 8 weeks – I do wonder if part of my persistence is due to using an ap that eases you into running. I used 5K Runner/Couch to 5K and I clearly remember the days when I could barely get through 90 second intervals, and how accomplished I felt when I did. Now, I’m doing 35 minutes without (much) trouble. Yes, yes, I know, I sound annoyingly smug like all the other annoyingly smug runners, but it’s true – it worked.
Tip #4: Do not beat yourself up for stopping. Let me say that again. DO NOT BEAT YOURSELF UP FOR STOPPING. When I run with my dog, she doesn’t quite understand that she’s not supposed to pee her normal 15 times, and about 4 weeks ago, I realized that feeling a failure because I had to stop for her, or a traffic light, or whatnot, was absolutely foolish. So you have to tie your shoe? Or you’re gasping for air and need a moment to reset your breathing? DO IT, and don’t worry about it. You are no less of a success because of it. Something like 95% of the world can’t do what you’re doing, so give yourself a break.
Tip #5: Don’t worry about pace. Just get out there. I am very slow but I refuse to say “oh no, I just jog.” Screw that. After doing it for 8+ weeks I really don’t give a damn if I ever get faster. I’m running. That’s enough.
Tip #6: STRETCH. That is all I will say. YOU MUST STRETCH.
Tip #7: Water is your friend. Drink lots of it – I hurt far less after a run when I drink more water.
Tip #8: Find pretty routes – I give the Charles River a great deal of credit for the fact that I am still running.
Tip #9: Imagine high-five-ing every runner you pass. I hold out hope I will get up the guts to do this one day – it would be so much fun.
Tip #10: Tell everyone that you run. You will get so many “atta girls” and “good for yous” that after a while, you might start to believe them.
Tip #11: Take a good long look at your legs in the mirror someday, and fall in love with them. I have. My legs are still too fat for conventional beauty, but I have come to love their curves. I see strength in them, and that’s pretty cool.
Good luck, my fellow non-runners. I hope to check back with you in the spring and be able to say I’m still non-running. Old Man New England Winter is gonna make it tough, but that’s why God made treadmills and and trips to warmer climates. Anyone know a good 5K in Hawaii? 🙂