I’m not the first person to discover running. I’m sure some caveman was like “Wow, if I run a lot for no reason, cavewomen will like my tapered calves and wooly mammoths won’t be able to catch me” and then it caught on.
But I am unusual in that I am a person with little ambition to run, or to be athletic at all, who has started running and kept doing it for quite awhile. And I’ve even started to like it. So I thought I would write about that.
I’ve failed to form a running habit countless times. I thought no “Couch to 5k” program could work on me. But eventually I figured out that part of the issue is that I don’t want to run a 5k—or any race. I just wanted to run aimlessly like the original caveman. Motivation is weird like that.
I started running again when we bought a house, and I saw on Google Maps that it’s about a mile to the lake and back. And because running is a fast way to workout, I started trying to do that run regularly. I hated it at first, as it was hot and sticky outside and running made my back hurt. But after I’d done it a few times, the muscle soreness started to feel like an itch to run more. So I did. I set a weekly mileage goal, which was six miles. Eventually, I started running three miles instead of two, and my weekly goal became 10.
I invested in some actual running shoes (read: not cool Nikes, but unsexy shoes that actual runners use) and my knee and foot pain started to go away. All the pain started to go away. I went on vacation to China, and found that I complained less about walking all day than I usually did on trips.
I tried a four-mile run one Saturday, and it was hard. It brought back some of the old pain and nausea of early runs. I went to a baseball game and had a giant beer afterward.
I kept doing the four-mile run, and then one day it was easy. So I did five. Then that became easy, so I did six. Then seven, then eight.
The weather cooled off, and my weekly mileage goal moved from 10 to 14 to 20. I actually ran along the ocean during a work trip in California, and was like who am I, an Instagram person?
After about a year and a half, running has transformed from something I dread into a little self-esteem engine I fuel with my own physical effort. I stopped spending the whole run wishing it was over and started feeling kind of like a kid running at recess. My body could do things I had no idea it could do, and it stopped yelling at me about them. I started spooking old ladies and dogs once in awhile when I ran by. Did that mean I was getting faster? My Apple Watch said yes. (I’m still not very fast nor care to be.)
As my mileage went up, I burned through running playlists and started seeking out new music, getting out of the trap of listening exclusively to things I liked from the ages of 14-22. I had new music and scenery for my thoughts and could associate different events in my life with the weather and music of certain runs. It became a new way to relate to myself, or to deal with my life, I guess. And I like that.
I will continue to keep running a bit of an aimless goal, even as it creeps more and more into my consciousness. It’s nice to think of myself as a runner. It makes me think almost anyone can be.
A Few Helpful Details for People Who May Want to Run:
-I talk about upping my mileage above, but I did so very slowly. If you try to go from two-mile to six-mile runs in one month, you’ll probably injure yourself. I read that you can add 10% to your run per week, so if you’re running three miles, just add .3 miles next week.
-I would suggest reading The Incomplete Book of Running by Peter Sagal (the host of Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!). He shares a lot of lessons he learned from running, and I think it helped me avoid having to learn them the hard way. Also, read Runners World and other magazines to get advice from actual running experts.
-Avoiding injuries is everything when it comes to sticking with running. If you hurt yourself, stop running until you’re healed. I think that is what I screwed up every other time. If you are obsessive and need to work out, try swimming or biking or doing pilates in front of your TV until you can run again.
-I run in Reebok Floatride Run Fasts. They helped me get rid of my knee and foot pain. If you’re having a lot of pain, go to a running store and get advice on a shoe for the unique way you run. You can also read shoe guides in running magazines if you’re like me and can’t bear the idea of talking to someone in a running store.
-I run on a treadmill if it’s dark or cold out. I don’t really want to twist my ankle in a pothole cuz it’s dark or feel unsafe running. (I quit Strava because I found it creepy that other people could see where I was running.)
-Haruki Murakami wrote a book called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, which I’m sure is way better than this blog post. (I read it like 10 years ago.) Runners World shares running-related poems sometimes, which I enjoy. I have gotten more into poetry lately and find that certain lines zing through my brain a lot while I’m running. I’m open to other running-related books and poems if people have suggestions.
-I have an unscientific theory that the runner’s high kicks in around the three mile mark. This is when I am warmed up and stop thinking “I’m 1/40th of the way done. Now 1/20th. Now 1/10th” and just get into the flow. Running gets a lot more fun once you can get past three miles.